Saturday, January 22, 2011

The trauma of a pretty smile.

I am so envious of my kids. They have no idea how good they've got it when it comes to a visit to the dentist.

When I was a kid, sitting in the dentist's office was like waiting on death row. Nothing good ever came of it.

Problem was, I was that innocent little baby that sucked her thumb only to then require retainers and braces to correct the effects of that thumb-sucking. Talk about being punished for a little self-soothing!

My dentist was mean.
My kids' dentist is kind.

My dentist was insulting.
My kids' dentist is encouraging.

My dentist figured novacaine was entirely optional.
My kids' dentist will do anything to eliminate pain.

I am thoroughly envious.

At my dentist's office, there were various rooms which were equipped for different types of care.

To me, they each represented their own level of pain.

One room had flowery wallpaper. No drills or frightening equipment. This was the room used for a simple, pain-free check up. Maybe a cleaning. I'd sigh in relief when I was escorted to that room.

Next there was the room they took you to if you were most likely going to get some pokes - but nothing too terrifying. Small amounts of pain were inevitable, but manageable.

And then there was the room that brought great trepidation and trembling. My entire body tensed up immediately upon entering. It was the Raggedy Ann and Andy room. That wallpaper screamed 'TORTURE.' It is here you knew it was only a matter of time. You would be writhing in pain. No question.

To this day my stomach does a flip and a flop whenever I see a Raggedy Ann or Andy doll, painting, fabric, whatever. They're now synonymous with pain in my mind.

The additional problem I had was that my dentist had a daughter the same age as me with identical teeth issues. She was a thumb-sucker too, and she needed retainers and braces just like I did. In fact, we began treatment around the same time and therefore our check-ups were often similar in nature.

This did not bode well for me. Here's why:

Dentist's Daughter was a tough little cookie.

I was not. Or at least this is what he led me to believe.

My dentist would be killing me with his sharp instruments - I was certain Raggedy Ann & Andy wallpaper was used solely because the pattern could hide all the blood stains - and while I'm sobbing for relief he scolds me, "I just did this to my daughter last week and she didn't cry at all! Come on, this doesn't hurt!"

Some bedside manner that one had.

I never actually knew going to the dentist didn't have to be painful until I was in college. I needed my wisdom teeth removed, so I found a local dentist to do the job.

I was emotionally preparing myself for the agony. I put the memory of Raggedy Ann and Andy out of my mind as best as I could and I went for it.

And you know what?

It didn't hurt at all! The guy used some stuff to numb the pain of the stuff that would be used to numb the pain. Like a one-two punch to pain. Very nice.

What a novel idea.

He didn't scold me.

He didn't rip my lips into shreds with his latex gloves and then later say, "Oh, you'll need some vaseline."

It was - dare I say it - a pleasant experience!

My kids are so fortunate because it has always been a pleasant experience.  They get to watch a monkey brush his teeth. They get toothpaste flavors like strawberry and cookie dough. The hygenist asks them about things they like. And when they're all done, they get to choose a prize from a box.

All I ever got when I left the dentist was a disapproving look and a "come back in two weeks."

Yep, my kids have it much better than I did. And boy am I glad!


  1. Hmm. I guess kids will always be treated that way because they’re the ones who usually dread the dentist. It’s more like getting rid of the usual notion among kids… However, it’s also a matter of accepting who our dentists are. We all are different.

  2. Parents will surely be proud if this happens to them… Kids these days aren’t afraid of the dentists anymore. I think it’s because of how the advancements in dentistry have made the experience more kid-friendly. The new techniques and technologies allow dental procedures to become more efficient and less dreadful.