After reading Fluid Pudding this week and hearing about her crazy range of experience with various dentists, I felt that it was a subject I could address because I also have teeth that have been subject to professional care at least twice a year over my lifetime.
My first dentist was a wizened, troll-like man who didn't waste any time on nonsense like reassuring nervous patients. That was fine until I finally got my first cavity while I was in college and surviving largely on donuts and Mountain Dew.
The intersection of the fact that I'd never gotten a filling before, the rollercoaster emotions of my youth (I think that was the same week my beloved childhood cat died), and the frightening reputation of dentists in pop culture meant that I was completely freaked out. The dentist was predictably impatient with me when I cried in his office after hearing I needed a filling and wouldn't commit to it on the spot.
As I rode down the elevator in the medical building to leave, a stranger noticed my distress and was so kind and concerned that I realized she thought something was actually seriously wrong. I was embarrassed to have been such a baby about the whole thing, got the filling, and moved on to an adulthood where fillings weren't such an overblown tragedy.
When that dentist died, a much younger dentist bought the practice. He was a big man with a Scandinavian name and it wasn't difficult to imagine him with Viking forbears. I recall his dental care to be quite satisfactory, although I remember my dad complaining about his giant fingers. He was the first dentist to replace that original filling that caused me such distress, along with the one or two other amalgam fillings I'd gotten from my first dentist. I certainly appreciate the trend of tooth-colored fillings.
When that dentist left the practice, a much younger dentist took over. Seriously, I think he was twelve. By then I was in my thirties and it was the first time I'd encountered a medical professional who was younger than I was and thought, "No." I'm sure he was a perfectly good dentist, but I was just plain uncomfortable with his relative inexperience and suspicious of his diagnoses. I readily acknowledge that it was probably all in my imagination, but that was what finally made me stop driving to the other side of town and find a dentist near my house. (Turns out I wrote about him at the time.)
My current dentist is great. His office and methods are up to date, he and his staff are very friendly and professional and they have demonstrated great tolerance and flexibility every time I've completely spaced an appointment.
My only complaint is the dentist's minimalist approach to pain management during procedures. Of course no one enjoys being numbed to the gills and dribbling liquids from their slack lips all day, but this guy goes in the complete opposite direction. He uses the bare minimum amount of novocaine necessary to keep you from leaping out of the chair while he's drilling, and it's pretty much worn off by the time you walk out the door. I've learned to pre-game with some Tylenol before I leave home. Also, I have a pretty good tolerance for pain, which helps.
As long as I decide I'm good with the occasional post-filling jaw ache, I'm likely to stay where I am for a while. So let's hear it: do you have any good/bad dentist stories to share?
Photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar