Monday, February 19, 2007

It Was Supposed to Be a Little Scary

I took the family to our dentist for our semi-annual check-up and cleaning. I thought we would be in and out with gleaming smiles and an appointment card for June. We have gone to the same dentist for years. My kids love him and trust him. None of us is apprehensive about a visit to Dr. Gary.

My first clue that all was not going as planned was when I passed my middle son (age13) in the hall and he didn't smile... he just grunted. I continued to the exam room and assumed it was just a particularly nasty attack with the tartar hook until Gary sat down and said, "He has 3 cavities." According to my youngest, who was having his cleaning in the next cubicle, I gasped in a loud, shocked, horrified manner. I was stunned. We are generally very conscientious about oral hygiene so this was really a surprise.

Gary went on to explain that I would need to make two appointments for the filling of these cavities. Since this was my son's first experience with this sort of procedure, Gary wanted it to be minimally traumatic. He promised to give the boy some laughing gas and Novocain and to be very gentle. Considering my son's intense fear of needles and pain, I was dreading all of this.

It took about a week to get the first appointment. It felt like an eternity. I met the initial complaints and expressions of fear with great compassion and calming words. By the time the appointment rolled around I was getting tired of him complaining and trying to avoid admitting that this happened because of his lax brushing habits. 'Oh, honey, don't worry, it will be fine' nearly turned into 'Suck it up and brush your teeth better so we don't have to go through this again.’

The silent ride to the office was heartbreaking. I wished I could relieve his anxiety, but nothing I said calmed him. With great trepidation, I watched Dr. Gary walk my son down the hall with his arm around his shoulders. Thirty long minutes later my son emerged with a loopy grin plastered on his face. Dr. Gary told us that he had done fine and two of the three cavities had been filled. So that this didn’t become a harrowing ordeal, we were to schedule another appointment so the job could be finished.

In the van on the way home, I told him that it would all be over in a few weeks and then he could move on. I gave a short, yet eloquent, speech on the importance of oral hygiene and the avoidance of the dentist’s drill. As I paused, ready to commend him on his bravery, he interrupted. “Mom, I liiiiike that gas stuff,” he giggled.

So the following weeks were not worrisome. Today he had his last cavity filled and again enjoyed a lovely high courtesy of Dr. Gary. Herein lies the rub. He really did like the gas. A lot. In fact I overheard him telling his brothers that the whole “cavity thing” wasn’t a big deal at all.

As empathetic as Dr. Gary is, I wished he had managed to be just slightly more menacing; just a little scare to be filed away in association with tooth decay in my son’s memory. Instead, the boy has no fear of further dental work.

In other words, the whole experience was so much fun he may never brush his teeth again. So, Gary thanks for your kindness. You meant well. But maybe next time, could you throw in an evil laugh or something?



TomCat said...

Lucy, be thankful you have this guy. I had an early experience with a dentist so horrid that it took 30 years to get me back into another dentist's chair.

Women on the Verge said...

I know I'm lucky. We love Gary. He has been there for us when my kids have had mouth injuries at night and on weekends.
I'm sorry your experience wasn't more pleasant!

RUTH said...

I have an absolute phobia of dentists. All stems back to my Dad's horrific accounts of his army dentist.....and we adults don't get gas just the needle!

Claire said...

I have read about tomcats bad dentist thing! not good!
I think your right, dentist needs to throw in an evil laugh next time.

Mando Mama said...

Ohh how life's disappointing dentist visits loom even drearier for a sensitive new age kid. Mine's 12-1/2, and I don't know when he or his sister last made it to the dentist because their dad handles that. So it could be gruesome. I think I need to put you on speed dial.

We love our dentist as well but he doesn't use gas. Inspired by your story, I made an appointment for myself with Dr. Gary for April. What's a 350-mile drive for the very best?

Women on the Verge said...

mando, you wouldn't be disappointed. It would be well worth the drive. Dr. Gary is one in a million.

Wayward Son said...

I've been meaning to come and comment here thanking you for visiting my blog. There's another posting about Ms. Coulter, Inciting & Indicting Ann! which is good for a sick laugh. I really don't want to make a habit of giving her "air time" so-to-speak but what am I to do? I get angry and think I need the outlet but all it does make it worse.

Dentist stories are like cat stories if you have one. Each tale begets another. Here is mine. I am from another era so keep that in mind. My mother was the kind who from the time I can remember held me by the lip and rigorously brushed my teeth—at least until I was old enough to do it on my own. Prior to then she was quite vigilant as she had already raised her younger sister and times and information being what they were, had done a disastrous job in regards to tooth care.

She felt pretty confident on my first trip to the dentist but soon had her comeuppance when I was diagnosed with SEVEN CAVITIES! Long story short, there was no gas back then only Novocaine, the pervasive local anesthetic of the times. It took four visits as the cavities where evenly spaced on the left and right sides and the upper and lower bridges. Each time he would shoot up one side of my face with Novocain, paralyzing the entire half of my face from the base of the nose to the center of my chin. I was a hellion as a child but, oddly, a dutiful patient at the dentist. He would, in his view, reward me each visit with a deflated balloon. Have you ever tried to blow up a balloon with half of your lower face and mouth paralyzed numb? I would think him as mean as Ann Coulter except for this. At every subsequent visit in which I had a cavity—they only came in ones after the first seven—the man managed to inject Novocain inside my mouth without my ever seeing the foot long metal syringe that he used to do so. I wonder what psychosis resulted from my frustration at trying in vain to inflate a balloon while also making these embarrassing flatulent sounds. It was way before adolescence when flatulent sounds would be a primary source of entertainment. I was saved from the reoccurring nightmare of the giant syringe... at least as a child.