When an Irish Catholic goes to the dentist, it reminds us of confession
dentist becomes more difficult as we
older? It occurred to me yesterday as the dentist squeezed the third load of
made an appointment when
the dull ache in my jaw moved to my ear. It happened
Last year she told me I probably cringed at night because
of a certain excess
alcohol while on vacation, and it might settle down after a few days.
That’s what happened and I forgot about the tooth until a few weeks ago, when it started to grieve me again. So I went there, all set to be a little ashamed of my drinking on vacation, because when an Irish Catholic goes to the dentist, it reminds us of our childhood days in confession. My dentist (who is brilliant, by the way) didn’t give me three Hail Marys and Glory Be to God. This time I had an extraction.
The tooth was fractured, it had to come out,
she said. I nodded
At her place
like a reasonable adult, while inside I had a mortality crisis. This tooth has been with me for about 48 years – is this extraction the beginning of the end? (This kind of panic often happens in my mid-50s. My knee hurts right now, I’m not taking it very well either.)
My most immediate problem was that
I’m a real wimp with a pain threshold down around my ankles. I thought about trying to get out of it, tell the dentist that I would be back another day because I had to be somewhere in half an hour.
He was a non-runner –
my dentist has a look that says’ you’re not going anywhere, open your mouth
while I numb your gums.
The problem with having a tooth extraction in your mid-50s is that it’s probably been a while since you last. In the years since, you’ve probably watched Laurence Olivier pierce Dustin Hoffman’s teeth without anesthesia in the movie.
The marathon man.
The anesthetic injections took a minute, but it felt like an hour. There was not
pain at all times, but the feeling of helplessness made me panic. I tried to
hide my discomfort
because the word on the streets is dental work is a drag now compared to the bad old days when we were growing up.
I’m not so sure.
The pliers that pull your tooth out may be a bit more high-tech, but it’s still pliers.
How can we ever
return to the dentist for a second visit,
I wondered as she tugged at my broken tooth.
My son gave me a hint when I
arrived home later
and he asked if I had had a lollipop.
He also has
told me the dentist was using me to get money from the tooth fairy which gave me a
decent laugh despite
my mouth numb.
My two children see nothing wrong with going to the dentist, at least not yet. It must be something that we learn over time. As a kid you have a habit of feeling helpless and being told what to do – now that I’m an adult I think there must be a way out.
Before leaving, the dentist gave me the usual lesson on the regular use of dental floss. I nodded, but I can’t see myself doing it. I hate flossing more than a trip to the dentist to blow up the plaque with an air gun. It is too late to change my habits on this front. But it’s not too late to make sure my kids are taking better care of their teeth than I am.
I met my mom after the extraction and she told me that all of her teeth were removed when she was my age. I would like to think my kids will have all their teeth in their sixties and sixties. Especially if it saves them a trip to the dentist.