“Open wide now!”

Is it the fact that the chair goes completely flat, and you lose perspective on the room? or that huge, glaring light that burns into your eyes? What about those shiny, metal instruments that lie in wait, a mere six inches from your nervous, salivating gums?

I know, of course, that it’s one of those things we have to deal with, every six months. And that when it’s over and done with, the next visit will seem light years away and can be shoved back into the drawer of items-we-don’t-talk-about-for-now. But the minute that small white card plops onto the doormat, we gasp with collective horror for the dreaded half-yearly dental check-up has arrived! Yikes. Here we go again.

The thing is… I just can’t stop being fearful of going to the dentist. Even for a check up. Wish I could. Some people are far less bothered and I’d love to be one of them.

It all started when, as a child, I decided to “pull a fast one” in school and on impulse, told teacher that I too had a check-up which (coincidentally) meant leaving school at 10am to head across with my best friend. Dental check-ups, in those days were rare, you see. There was no such thing as ‘going every few months’, still isn’t really, in Ireland. You went to the dentist only when there was an urgent need to do so and your mother’s whisky-soaked cotton wad had failed to rid you of toothache the night before.

Having watched various school pals take entire mornings off, for ‘the dentist’, I decided I wanted in on the act. And in on the act I got. By the time the hopelessly old-fashioned dentist had shot my gums full of anaesthetic with what looked and felt like a monstrosity of a needle, then left me shivering in a freezing waiting room for half an hour before drilling ferociously into two teeth – I had moved firmly into the camp of dentist-haters. And there I have lived, ever since. Dreading each visit, postponing it if feasible and thankful that I’ve seldom needed much done.

By the time I had children, I was determined not to pass on my fears. Cheerily leading them in, I smiled as best I could, tried not to gag at the medicinal smell and told them they had nothing to worry about. But fools they are not, and although they’re less nervous than I am, it stays a challenge, when all is said and done.

Last week was ‘check-up week’. My son, who frequently needs teeth filled, manned up to ‘going last’. My daughter and I go in together. Strength in numbers. By now we have our own code: if she needs me to kick in with moral support, a well timed interruption or mild objections she’ll move her left foot twice.

As the dentist worked his way around her gums, I stayed alert. With maybe three teeth left to check we heard some of the dreaded words from behind the scary mask, “M3, distal, make a note for next time”. The left foot stayed still but the right one twitched. I held my breath and readied myself for battle, “but I think we’re good for now” he finished.

And exhale. For six more months.

Image of nervous patient in dentist chair
Is it the fact that the chair goes completely flat?
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16 thoughts on ““Open wide now!”

  1. Great blog again! My dentist has a painting on the ceiling. Great distraction. And she believes nobody in her chair should be in pain! So I don’t hate going so much anymore. The dental hygienist however, is a different story…my muscles relax when she reaches for the fluoride paste…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I want your dentist! 🙂 (maybe seriously…although mine is not bad, he’s improved!). I’m teaching him to be human. Never been to a dental hygienist, thank goodness. Heard it’s pretty awful.

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  2. I’m glad your daughter got a six-month reprieve. I must admit, on my list of favorite places on the planet, dentist surgeries are conspicuously absent. I’m sure most dentists are perfectly nice people, I just like them to be perfectly nice people standing at some distance from my mouth. 🙂

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    1. Haha, couldn’t agree more!! How anyone could ever choose such a profession is a mystery to me anyway, but even walking in takes all my courage. Lately I have adopted a false ‘bravado’ approach, talking endlessly even as the chair tilts back to stop myself from bolting. So far so good… Some part of me is trying to distract him from needing to do anything. Sigh. Just a big chicken, in short.

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      1. I don’t blame you. I had a lot of fillings when I was younger. I noticed that dentists often tended to be big fibbers. They’d say, “This won’t hurt” about 15 seconds before I shot through the roof.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You too? Exactly! Mind u, mine now says, “it will hurt a bit”. Not sure which I prefer, the big old lie or cruel truth! Yes, I do know, I prefer to be out cold. Then he can say whatever he likes 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, great point. It’s a shame they don’t usually give general anesthetics for fillings. I’d take one if they offered. (I might even take two if they offered, just to be on the safe side.)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m totally with you. After facial surgery following a serious car accident, I have a hard time with anyone working near my mouth, and the dentist is about as close as it gets. I am in full avoidance mode, but my day of reckoning will soon be here. I need someone with a code to help me through. 😉

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      1. Go for them! When that drill gets into his/her hand u need someone there to yell “ho!” If needed. From a big old scaredy-cat. But one that goes ‘prepared’ haha.

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  4. When I was little, we had to endure fluoride treatments. Plastic trays filled with the most bitter tasting goo were placed over our teeth, both top and bottom rows. Then we had to sit still for half an hour while we drooled all down our faces. After the dentist removed the trays, then he rinsed and rinsed and rinsed our mouths out to get rid of that nasty taste! Then he, inexplicably, gave us lollipops for being so good! I guess that’s one way to ensure more fees to take care of future cavities lol!
    But those fluoride treatments worked very well; neither I nor my two younger brothers had any cavities until we were in our mid 20’s. But I hears ya about getting that dreaded postcard in the mail: It’s time for your check-up! with pictures of happy, smiling people on the card. Those people had to have been paid, and paid well, to pretend to be that cheerful about going to see the dentist lol! LOVE your story, sweetie! I hope you’re feeling much much better! XXX OOO

    Liked by 1 person

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