Last night some good friends of mine begged me to avoid the political arena in this weekís column and I couldnít agree more. With Election Day now come and gone, I decided it would be best to let it lie Ė weíll see how things turn out in the weeks, months and years to come Ė and turn to something a little less serious.
Of all my fears Ė more terrifying than nuclear war, alien invasion, climate change or yes, even politicians Ė the one thing which reduces me to a quivering pile of jelly is the dentist.
I suppose Iím exaggerating a bit, but if I were phobic, I would definitely be considered a dentophobiac.
Even as a young child I was convinced that modern dentistry originally evolved from the barbaric dungeon torture chambers of the Middle Ages. I mean think about it, they do use a lot of the same tools Ė picks, pliers, screws, drills, hammers, needles and whatnot. Just the high-pitched whine of a dentistís drill and Iím ready to run for the hills.
Thereís a cruel sense of humor to the fact that my fear was not always so all-consuming. My first several trips to the dentist were actually kind of fun, but I have a sneaking suspicion that itís planned out that way. A quick cleaning, a new toothbrush and maybe a lollipop (how ironic) and you were on your way. Sure, a dental cleaning isnít the most pleasant of experiences, but itís not all that painful really.
No, my (I consider it totally reasonable) fear of dentists began with my first cavity and the filling which ensued. I canít imagine what my first dentist thought of the look on my face when he held up that enormous (or so it seemed at the time) Novocain needle. Iím sure it was a mixture of terror and disbelief that this man, though a professional, really thought I was going to let him jab that thing into my mouth. Iím pretty sure thatís when I started to shake uncontrollably.
Next, however, that high-pitched, piercing whine I mentioned earlier. I find it hard to believe, with all that modern technology has to offer us, dentists the world over have not discovered a way to produce a noise-free way to drill. Just the thought of that sound and I start to get a cold, panicky feeling. Yet the drilling and subsequent fillings Iíve received over the years pale in comparison to the true evil Ė braces.
I was sixteen or seventeen years old when I had that dreadful contraption installed, and whatís worse, my orthodontist at the time was as scary to me as his profession. He was a frightening man, who smelled none to good, and I dreaded my monthly visit for my regular ďtightening,Ē as misleading a term as has ever been contrived. What they should call it is Ė let me stick this gadget in your mouth and wrench it about until youíre in as much pain as you can possibly bear. At least thatís what it felt like to me.
Even worse was the time this twisted, demented man, following my ďtightening,Ē clipped one end of the wire too short. About two hours after Iíd returned to my dorm room at Ithaca College (parents, donít ever send your child to college with a mouthful of metal, itís just wrong) the sharp-as-a-tack wire pulled free from its support and proceeded to jab its way into my cheek. For an entire month I had to deal with a considerable amount of pain as the inner flesh of my left cheek was continuously gouged away. Itís an experience I wouldnít wish on my worst enemy.
Unfortunately for me, I once again have need to call on the services of one of our excellent local dentists, who I hope never read this column. Iíve had a pair of cavities (more like craters really) bothering me for the past decade or so, and Iíve finally reached the point where something must be done. The only reason Iíve put it off so long is that, in truth, I simply couldnít afford to do anything about it until now.
So I suppose this afternoon, once I get everything at work squared away, Iíll pick up the phone and set up an appointment for next week, although Iím tempted to wait a couple of weeks to do so. In my mind, a little pain is worth the chance to postpone the inevitable for as long as possible. Then again, maybe itíd be better to just get it over with.
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