Just to be clear I’m a tad skittish around dentists and everyone associated with the dental profession, and yes, I realize I’m categorizing everyone into one large bucket but I have my reasons…
If you’ve read my first book (Indelible Adventures) you’ll know that at the age of 12 I had a particularly traumatic bicycle accident in which I lost my two front teeth. That’s what happens when you take a blind corner on the wrong side of the road I suppose. 🙂
After hitting the car head on, thank goodness he was only going slowly, my teeth were embedded in the front bonnet (hood) of a 1963 Ford ute (pickup) along with a rather large and impressive (if I say so myself) dent where my face made impact. Apparently when the driver tried to dislodge the two teeth from the metal they quickly turned to dust, now that’s some impact!
Looking back I was exceptionally fortunate to have only lost two teeth, although to be fair I also was lucky enough to acquire a broken nose along with a rather healthy concussion for my trouble. I can tell you I looked quite a picture with two black eyes, swelling around my face and nose plus those pesky headaches, but the worst part was my teeth. I was totally embarrassed at having broken front teeth – soooo attractive when you’re a pre-teen and already awkwardly self conscious…
Shortly after this unfortunate episode my mother made an appointment with a dentist in Ballarat so he could survey the damage and figure out what to do. Given that our family was very poor this would be my first visit to a dentist. In addition I realized that this perceived “extravagance” would add a level of financial burden to our family that I knew we could ill afford, which only added to my guilt at having the accident in the first place.
My memory of the dentist was that he was a gruff man, who reeked of alcohol… I remember sitting in the chair terrified as he opened my mouth and began poking about my mouth with a sharp metal instrument, what made it more unnerving was that he constantly muttered to himself as he examined me.
When he finally got to my two front teeth or what was left of them he began prodding the exposed nerves in my front teeth at which I visibly jumped in the chair in pain. He told me in a rather raised voice to sit down and stop carrying on.
By this time my teeth and mouth were painful and distinctly throbbing, tears welled in my eyes as I sat as quietly as I could, white knuckled onto his chair.
It was also plainly obvious that they both were a little disgusted with me for crying, and once I recognized those looks it just added to my embarrassment and shame. He finished the appointment by taking a mold of my mouth and teeth with a compound much like wet clay.
As we drove home in silence, all mum said was that I had to go back to see him and that he was going to “fix them”. I wasn’t sure what that meant but I grew up in an era that believed that “children should be seen and not heard” end of story.
Two weeks later I was back in his office, with mum in the waiting area as he once again began poking and prodding around my mouth. He then mixed the cement and positioned the cap over my front teeth, before pressing in on.
My front teeth definitely looked better than the broken teeth so in that regard I was thankful, however it was only a short while before my front teeth began aching incessantly. Clearly I didn’t want to complain to mum, and so tried to hide it for as long as I could but the constant ache and sensitivity was just too much to bear and I eventually had to tell her.
My next visit to the “bush dentist” was traumatic to say the least…
As he examined me to told mum that the front two teeth would have to come out and they were likely abscessed. I guess he could tell from his experience because there were no x-rays taken on any of my visits…
He also told mum that he should take out four of my molars while he was at it (two top, two bottom at the back – all healthy by the way) “to make room for my wisdom teeth” as it would save her money in the long run.
It was this last statement that sealed the deal with mum and so she agreed, better to pay now than in the future she would have reasoned. How was she to know that by taking out these four completely healthy teeth that it would continue to traumatize me long into my adult life.
I sat in the chair shaking as they discussed how many teeth he was going to take out. He started with my two front teeth, which came out surprisingly easily along with the abscess (puss filled casing) which hung from each tooth. Yeah, not pretty!
He then packed these with cotton to stem the bleeding, before turning his attention to my upper and lower teeth. I distinctly remember the sound of breaking teeth as he extracted them one by one from my jaw, almost having to put his knee on my chest to get enough leverage to get them out, all I can remember is the extreme pain of him digging out the shattered bits of teeth and from my bleeding and raw gums..
I stumbled out of his office completely traumatized – blood soaked cotton packing my mouth which dripped down my shirt and onto the floor.
Each morning and night for the next two weeks I had to gargle my mouth with hot, salt water to help my mouth heal faster, but it took quite some time before my mouth was healed enough to eat solid foods again.
Clearly my trust in the dental profession had been sorely tested all those years ago, and it took till after I arrived in Canada to finally have the nerve to seek out a dentist who could fix some of the issues caused by my “bush dentist”.
Although it’s taken many years to trust my current dentist, I know that he has my best interests at heart and deep down I trust him even though I’m still a bit jittery and nervous with every visit.
Recently when I went for a visit to look at a tooth that was sensitive to hot and cold he said that I most likely needed a root canal and referred me to an Endodontic colleague. I’d seen the Endodontist many years ago for a similar issue with another tooth so as he x-rayed my teeth earlier today he said that he’d noticed that in fact there were two issues, not one.
Oh-oh I thought here we go again…
He could tell that I was very nervous about his “discovery”; I guess the ashen pallor and look of pure fear on my face was enough to give it away. He asked me why I was so nervous and felt compelled to tell him about my dental experience as a child.
Armed with this info he spent an inordinate amount of time explaining, in detail how he would approach the root canal as he outlined the entire procedure on the x-rays so that I could see it come to life. After giving me a good dose of local anesthetic he began working on the root canal, throughout the procedure he kept asking me how I was doing and reassured me that everything was going as planned, which invariably helped calm my nerves and keep me on an even keel.
He even called me at home the next day to follow up and see how I was doing and to make sure that I wasn’t in too much pain.
I’m so happy that Zach and Sami will never have to go through that type of dental trauma in their lifetimes – yep, no “bush dentists” for them…thank goodness!
It’s amazing what regular visits and braces will do for you. 🙂
Until next week.