Don’t you just love going to the dentist? I have to say that mine is a really nice guy and I have never been too fraught over my regular visits for cleaning and x-rays. However, I do admit to feeling a twinge of anxiety every time I go. What, I ask myself, will they find this time? Is there anything else they could possibly find to dig up or root out? Where is the end to decay and decrepitude? Is it really possible to preserve your dental health? Or is it one of those Sisyphean tasks that seem to accumulate as we age?

When I was a child, my mother would take all five of us to a dental clinic run by The University of Iowa. It was located in the Dental School facility, and the children’s clinic was on a second floor balcony. It was an open space with four chairs in a row. Each chair had the required flexible overhead light, a spit sink, and swing around tray for instruments of torture. The dental student had a rolling stool and a rolling cabinet, and that was about it … pretty basic by todays standards. As I recall the chairs were one-size-fits-all, and the floor was wood. The space was entirely open with a gymnasium feel to it.

However, the entertainment value for a child was truly outstanding!!! While waiting my turn to take a seat, I would hang over the balcony railing and watch the adult clinic on the first floor. This was a huge single room with wall to wall chairs, all filled with people having various nasty things done to their teeth. Imagine if you will the main floor of Grand Central Station filled with dental chairs … all with occupants … all having bibs on and cotton swabs hanging out of their cheeks.  The noise of the drilling and the clanking instruments hitting the pan along with the general strangeness of watching it all from up above was hypnotic. I really enjoyed it. And, it was nice to feel that I was getting special care … after all there were only four chairs up there on the balcony, and it was all rather exclusive feeling.

For a short time I had to go in for some specialized work involving a metal spacer to replace a tooth lost to a jungle-gym debacle. For the duration of my treatment it would be just mother and me and the specialists in baby teeth … no brothers and no sisters and two doctors in attendance. That meant that I came to be a pretty special visitor … recognized and greeted whenever we arrived. Heady stuff for a six year old.

But then it all came to and end. We moved from Iowa and started going to a regular ordinary dentist. He had a regular ordinary office in a regular ordinary house on a regular ordinary street in a regular ordinary neighborhood. Man what a comedown … he had only one chair, a boring waiting room with stupid Highlights magazines and nothing to do but wait while you waited.  Bummer!  Even today with all the slick tilt chairs and hideous technology that gives us access to fine dentistry, I still miss those old creaky leather chairs all lined up and waiting. And really, the new ordinary boring dentist was really nice, and gave out lollipops … drumming up business I suppose.

9 Replies to “HERE’S THE DRILL”

  1. Your early experiences sound rather positive so I was very amused reading your account. I think I went to Count Dracula who relished pain and hated kids. To this day, I have anxiety going to the dentist. Those early memories I remember before than, let’s say, yesterday.

  2. This is Connie’s brother. Everything she said about the dentistry experiences at the University of Iowa is positootly true… and accurate. I was fascinated by the cord-driven drills with bits the size of an oil-drilling head. Yikes!

  3. I had dental anxiety as a little girl. My Mom once pulled me out from behind the toilet bowl and gave me what she called a “courage pill” so I could make the trip to the office. I started going to a dentist who sang to me, using my name and the main song phrase. And he had a treasure chest of goodies I could pick from. All through college I would return an hour to hometown Madison in order to go to MY dentist; only a little embarassed when he removed the child insert in his main chair so I could stretch out. Then there was the orthodontist….. Now I do love the dentist mainly because I take the gas without a second thought.

    1. OMG I had no idea that childhood dentistry was such a topic of anxiety. Once again … thank you Moms! What was the courage pill? Do you know? I love the singing dentist … maybe my ordinary dentist might have been improved by song.

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