You know the feeling, don’t you, dear Reader? From the moment you arrive. You are assaulted by that smell. You know the one. The obsessively sterilized yet somehow infused with a distinct slice of torture. And then you hear it. The high pitched whir. And your heart suddenly feels like it’s blocking your airways because you know that it’s only a matter of time until it’s… your turn. You try to read your book or browse the magazines while you wait, trying to give the impression that you’re actually a cool kid, unfazed by the impending horror. But who you kidding? Eventually you are lead through and with a deep, determined breath you force yourself to lie down in the plastic-covered chair. The belligerent light is shone in your face and you are forced to close your eyes. Which is a good thing. Cause you don’t want to see what’s coming anyway.
I hate the dentist. Hate. I’m not sure how it started but I know that the fear was cemented in my final year of school when I got all four of my wisdom teeth out, without general anesthetic, in the chair. Aside from the obvious (the stream of metallic-tasting-trying-to-clot blood in my mouth and the sound of teeth cracking, MY teeth cracking to be more specific), the worst bit was the oppressive stench of the dentist’s breath, only made to feel more oppressive by his over-weight stomach resting on my chest while he worked, and his constant self-muttering of “this is very, very difficult… bad idea… should have done a general anesthetic”. To top the whole experience off, as I was leaving, with my swollen mouth and face, unwittingly drooling blood and saliva because I was so numb, of COURSE the universe would orchestrate for my high school crush to not only just happen to be in the waiting room to see me but to actually bound up and try to talk to me in all my horrific glory. The stuff of teenage nightmares.
Of course I have very proactively dealt with this fear of the dentist by assuming the elephant position. Only going to the dentist when absolutely forced to by agonizing pain and tooth decay. Which is about once every four years. And of course by then there is so much repair work to be done that the visit cannot help but confirm all my worst fears and beliefs about the profession.
So two years ago, when we were finally able to vaguely afford medical aid in South Africa, I decided to change my cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy and start going to the dentist once every six months irrespective of pain, fear or finance. And the first few visits were just as horrid as I expected them to be. But I got a weird kick out of being responsible and ‘doing the right thing’ so I kept at it. And now, almost two years later, I went to the dentist and for the FIRST TIME since I was in high school I didn’t need a filling. Sheez but I felt like a real-live-sparkling hero 🙂 And with no filling required the dentist was able to focus on things like deep cleaning and brushing technique, which should ensure that this pleasant-dentist-visit thing will become a permanent fixture.
I still don’t love going to the dentist. And I still don’t love flossing either. And I HATE the new weird-ass brush the dentist gave me this week. But I DO love not needing fillings, root canals or numbing injections. Not to mention not having to fork out fortunes on expensive dental procedures. Which got me thinking about the weirdness of the human condition. We will do anything to avoid a present discomfort only to experience massive pain and suffering at a later stage. Whereas if we just flossed our teeth every day or went to the dentist regularly or put part of our income into savings every month that massive pain, trauma and stress in the future would totally be avoided. Funny, funny humans.