I have been visiting the same dental office since I was a child. As of this morning, I have seen four different dentists there and watched the surrounding neighborhood decline in minor increments with each visit.
My first dentist was a wizened gnome of a man who was not at all sympathetic when I cried about having my first cavity when I was in college. It wasn't exactly comforting that he was an old-school amalgam filling guy.
When he died, there was an interim dentist that I barely remember and then the practice sold to another dentist who stayed there for many years. I remember him as a friendly, soft-spoken man with very large fingers who eventually replaced all my ugly metal fillings with more attractive porcelain ones (and added quite a few besides). He recently gave up his practice to devote time to some family issues, so I knew that my appointment this morning would be with yet another new dentist.
In the course of making the appointment, I learned that the receptionist was the new dentist's wife and that she was very pregnant. That led me to suspect that he was rather young, but I don't think I was quite prepared for the reality. I kid you not, he looked like he was twelve.
That was neither here nor there, but I couldn't help reflecting on the course of dentists who had ranged from my grandparents' age, to my parents' age, to just a little older than I am and finally ended with this guy who could have been my own son if I'd been a more reckless teenager.
The hygienist took x-rays, partly because I was overdue thanks to a missed appointment late last year and partly because I suspected a cavity on the upper left. She went to develop the film and the dentist proceeded to skewer my gums with the sharp, metal hook. I'm used to a gentle cleaning by a hygienist, so I wasn't too thrilled with the torture treatment. The dentist gave me the usual lecture about flossing and brushing my gums. Whatever, Junior.
The hygienist then did a ham-handed polishing job that flicked sandy, mint-scented gobbets of paste onto my face continuously until she finished. In the meantime, the dentist examined my x-rays and reported that I did not have a cavity on the left side, but I did have one on the right. It was difficult for me to resist the urge to ask him if he was sure he hadn't read the x-rays backwards.
I have a filling appointment scheduled a few weeks from now, but I'm having a difficult time deciding if I want to continue with the whippersnapper dentist and his klutzy assistant or if it might be time that I moved on to a more convenient location with more experienced personnel. On one hand, I'm sure the young 'un is probably well versed in the newest dental theories and techniques. On the other hand, I'm not sure I want to serve as his practice case while he perfects his craft.
In the meantime, I'll enjoy my clean, smooth teeth and the cool orange and green toothbrush I got. It doesn't quite make up for my unpleasant morning, but it's a start.