The Dentist

I am so scared of the dentist.

It comes from childhood, when I had my cavities turned into fillings. Needles in my mouth, the screaming drill, the pain, the drooling, the recovery, the forever sensitive teeth afterward. It was torture.

There is also a financial element. My family didn’t have a lot of money, and the first time it was recommended I have my wisdom teeth removed, we just couldn’t afford it. I read how many wisdom tooth extractions were unnecessary, a preemptive guessing game, a cash grab, as if they didn’t have enough money already with their fancy homes and cars and vacations and summer cottages. Let the wisdom teeth grow in, and superstitiously maybe it would make me more wise. Years passed, two had started growing in, things looked fine, I thought I was on the winning side of a big gamble. More than twenty years later, and I’m now accepting the dentist’s advice to remove the two lower wisdom teeth. One has a cavity, the other is growing crookedly pushing against my jaw and other molar. I should’ve had it done earlier but I wanted to prove that first dentist wrong, that he put my family in a position of sacrifice that I knew we couldn’t afford, that I bravely said it’s OK mom. And I wanted them to be the best, strongest, straightest wisdom teeth, and that dentist would be the worst, most wrong and greedy horrible person ever. Well, almost as bad as the sadistic dentist character Steve Martin plays in Little Shop of Horrors.

I spent an entire session with my therapist talking about my fear of the dentist. Through examining my fear, I got to a place where I trusted a new dentist enough to start going for check ups again after several years of avoidance. I usually still have an anxiety attack in the waiting room, but I’m the only one that notices, or the staff is so used to that look of fear they just ignore it to make you more comfortable. My heart races, I clench the sides of the chair in a claw grip, I try not to cry as he looks in my mouth, and then it’s fine. No big deal. I sometimes jokingly ask if there are prizes for grown ups, I wouldn’t mind a cheap ring or a sticker, I still like those things, once they gave me a pen, and last time they gave me a chapstick with their logo on it. They use a gel to numb my gums so the cleanings aren’t horrible and painful. I’m not so sure the oral surgery will be such a walk in the park but it’s happening, today.

The wisdom teeth are finally bothering me enough that I will pay almost as much as a trip to Mexico before the situation gets any worse. I have to drive two hours to get it done, well my mom does, I won’t be able to drive afterwards. I haven’t had food or water since midnight, and I have to bring a change of clothes unless I have an accident during the procedure. My sister is going to film me when I come to from the anaesthesia, hopefully I don’t embarrass myself. Maybe I will say some things that could be used for a piece of writing? I’m also not sure how being on pain killers during the recovery will affect my writing.

I’ve fretted about this appointment for weeks. The food and water fast, the drive, the check-in anxiety, the fear of being under, being in the chair of doom, the pain afterward, the modified eating, the hundreds of dollars. I’m already so thirsty. I wonder if they will let me keep the teeth? Is that weird?

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