I felt a scintilla of concern when my normally delightful daughter started having severe mood swings. It turned out she wasn’t bi-polar; she was bi-molar. She had a terrific toothache. Lucky for her, she lives in the enlightened age of dentistry.
I was not so fortunate, having grown up during the dark age of dentistry. I won’t reveal my old dentist’s name but you could call him Dr. No, as in no Novocain. He sure liked to drill, though. First, he’d line my mouth with bales of cotton to soak up all of my bodily fluids. Then he’d stick a fishhook vacuum in my jaw that made me feel like a salmon caught in mid-leap. Next, the drill would rumble to life, with all the subtlety of a power mower.
The drill had a fire hose attached. The high-pressure stream would overwhelm the vacuum, making me gasp for air. I’ve been against water boarding ever since. Dr. No must have had some lifeguard training, because he’d let me up to spit out water and refill my lungs.
After surviving Dr. No, my parents cut costs by sending me as a guinea pig to a school of dentistry. I remember it was the day before seventh grade started and I spent that last crystal blue day indoors, filling out forms. Finally I made it to the chair. The student took one look at my throbbing molar and decided it had to go. He managed to break the tooth off at the gum line and the teacher had to pry the rest out. They must have used Novocain, because otherwise I wouldn’t be alive.
I next entered the age of the root canal. Instead of drilling and filling, the dentist would dig into my tooth for a few minutes and pronounce me ready for a second visit. My mouth soon had more canals than Venice. It also had the rickety infrastructure of that sinking city.
Yes, I had gum disease.
I mean if I laughed too hard, my entire mouth could fall out. So, I went for cleanings to try and save the teeth I had left. Having been raised by the generation with removable teeth, the whole thing seemed unnecessary.
Our kids never had to experience these horrors. Novocain was in common use by then. They even had procedures to save their baby teeth, which I couldn’t understand. They got braces, regular checkups and didn’t require an excruciating emergency to visit the dentist.
My daughter’s case was an emergency, though. She got in right away and they finished digging half the canal. I told her many of my canals were only half completed. As one of my dentists once said to this survivor of the dark ages, “If I try to finish this thing, I’ll have to chase you down the block.”