By Joseph W.
My strong aversion to dentists probably took shape one gloomy day, when I was around six years old. I heard people rapidly telling me to put my shoes on. I remember getting herded into our van with the rest of my siblings, getting ready for a long car ride. The long ride forced us to contemplate what lay ahead, to rethink our lives. To make matters worse, we’d always delay lunch until after our appointment.
Upon arriving at the dentist office, I’d plop down on one of the few chairs, only to give it up at the behest of my sisters. I’d then watch the dentist propaganda rolling across the screen of an enormous TV, which they claimed couldn’t play Nemo. For the first forty-five minutes or so, I would be mesmerized by the before-after pictures of rotting sets of teeth turned spotless, no doubt a psychological game meant to scare us into actually brushing our teeth, and clips of a chimpanzee who learned through great hardships, and the unfailing love of an instructor and a female chimpanzee, to brush his teeth, played at intervals of people saying how brushing their teeth changed their lives, and more unpleasant pictures. No doubt they spaced it to maximize the suspense of whether or not Sabastian the monkey overcame the obstacles he faced.
I always waited longer than all my other siblings. I still do. Once I’d finally hear my name called out, I’d find a seat where I was first reclined to minimize any resistance I might offer. A paper towel equivalent of one third of my body size was tucked into my shirt. A painfully bright light shone in my face, and the interrogation would begin. “When was the last time you brushed your teeth? How many cardboard boxes, tin cans, and envelopes do you open with your teeth? Would you like to donate your front teeth to giving toothless adults a second chance? As I tried to respond they’d tell me to open my mouth, and raise my seat till I was practically two inches away from their masked face. When I did they put in metal tools to keep it open. They thanked me for opening my mouth so wide. When I tried to swallow they told me that they couldn’t work if my mouth was closed, and that the wider I opened my mouth, the sooner they could finish.
In my naiveté, I practically dislocated by jaw. To make matters worse, the fact that my tongue was getting in their way was apparently too much frustration than they could stand. They simply grabbed my over-salivating tongue and tied it to a near-by hitching post. My heart goes out to that horse whose place my tongue took. Your sacrifice made it possible for me to experience a day of agony. I’ll put in a good word for you with my friend Elmer at the glue factory.
Around that time they discovered a hidden reservoir of nothing (which they called a cavity). Then they grabbed their Dewalt drill gun, and first admonished me that if I felt any pain, I should squeeze her hand, (as I was at a loss for words). Then they started drilling for nothing. I just hoped they’d find it fast.
I suddenly felt a jolt of pain as the drill bit made contact with my gums. I immediately began squeezing her arm. She must have been a leper, ’cause she apparently didn’t feel anything. For a fleeting second I considered my child trump card, biting. Unfortunately due to the half pound of metal and two human hands in my mouth, that wasn’t an option.
Around this time, they gave me some kind of liquid to slosh around in my mouth that tasted like spoiled grape juice. They cautioned me that whatever I was to do, I should not swallow. I nodded wide eyed. Then they took out their Dewalt sander and began giving my teeth a finish. You gotta love that old man look. The wine they gave me took on a gritty taste from all the particles they were sanding off.
Suddenly standing up, they promised they’d be right back. Later in high school I’d major in Dentistese, a language that was previously foreign to me. It’s funny ’cause it sounds just like English, but words mean completely different things. Anyhow I’d later be able to translate what they actually said: We’re going on lunch break. See you in an hour.
After waiting for what seemed like eternity, and aiming the strobe light away from my face, I decided to get up and look for them. The sweet secretary smiled sweetly, but paid little attention to a small boy, waving his arm maniacally, and foaming at the mouth (still afraid to swallow that gritty Dentisteau 1887).
After a long day accentuated by the horrible experiences such as trying to eat lunch with a numb mouth, and arguing heatedly with my mom and dentist that I wasn’t really grouchy, and that even if I was, it had nothing to do with skipping naps (which I definitely didn’t take), I finally found myself relaxing on the long ride home.
They’d made my mom promise to never give us chocolate again, I couldn’t feel half my mouth, the other half was in agony, I was exhausted, half blind, but hey at least we were alive.
My mom then asked me how everything went. Not wanting to disappoint her, due to the looks my siblings were giving me, and the newfound knowledge that Mom and Dad had spent a lot of money, I said “Yeah, it was awesome. Thanks.” Trying to find solace I started digging through the useless bag of trinkets they gave us (where were those toy soldiers anyway?) and sucking on a tasteless lollipop. Discovering an “I love my Dentist” sticker, I quietly but passionately shredded it and almost had a heart attack at what my mom said next.
“Great Joseph, cause we’re coming back next week.”