Lingering Fear of the Dentist’s Office…

I’m guessing that most of us share unpleasant memories from childhood of going to the dentist, especially if we can recall those times during the 1950’s and 1960’s of antiseptic smelling waiting rooms with tables strewn with issues of magazines like “Field and Stream,” “Readers Digest,” “Humpty Dumpty,” and “Your Journey to a Happy Smile.”

The equipment in the the actual inner sanctum always looked as though Dr. Goodman had purchased it from the torture chamber of some medieval castle. The long arms of shiny, robotic-looking creatures  loomed over our heads and above the little sinks into which we spat blood, chips of old teeth, and whatever saliva that might have remained.  The old dental drills made smoke of tooth enamel, and sounds that could make most people flee screaming into the streets.  Unlike our family GP, our dentist didn’t offer us kids suckers or other candy as bribes or blissful distractions from what was about to happen in that inner chamber. In those days injections were not buffered by numbing gel or by little theater screens playing DVD’s of Peter Pan that now take our minds away from the trauma of the dental experience.

Those images linger still in my psyche, where they remain haunting reminders of the terrors, real or imagined, I have saved from childhood, including those dark remembrances of Mr. Tooth Decay wearing his black cape in pictures provided by Miss Fowler, my kindergarten teacher, whose dental dictum of “Up and down…and all around” was the daily message about the proper way to brush our teeth.  The happy tooth was our goal.

Also, there is something intimidating about the usual quizzes we endure, which generally begin with questions like, “Have you been flossing regularly?” or “Are you brushing at least twice daily?”  I always feel disappointed in my answers and often come perilously close to downright lies to cover my disgraceful negligence.  However, considering the fact that for teeth cleaning sessions, I usually arrive with enough plaque and tartar to start a ceramic factory,  lies would prove too embarrassing and transparent.  Whenever my teeth are cleaned the place sounds like a sculptor’s studio or workshop, scraping and chipping as though with a big chisel, more stuff chipped off than Michealangelo discarded in creating his statue of David.  No, it makes no sense for me to enter the dentist’s office in any other way but sheepishly, regretfully, penitently as though preparing for confession before an ordained priest.

In the end, it’s probably simply mind over matter through my creating imaginings far worse than anything that reality brings.  I now have a wonderful dentist, Dr. Mullins, who has never once exposed me to the slightest pain.  Everything is done with tremendous courtesy and the most advanced technology.  My visit to his office this past week was for teeth cleaning and a temporary crown, which will be made permanent in two weeks.  Dentistry has come a long way, but I can still see my mother before those ordeals of my visits to the dentist, and I can hear her saying, “ It’s mind over matter, but of course, if you don’t have a mind, it doesn’t matter.” Then she would simply smile.

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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One Response to Lingering Fear of the Dentist’s Office…

  1. Leina Pearson says:

    Ah, the dentist. -_- Reminds that once I scrape the money together, I have major dental work ahead of me. Den-Temp can only get a person so far before it wears away, leaving only the painful reminder that one must go the “chair.” You’re braver than I am, that’s for sure. Do you mind shipping your dentist to Indiana?

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