The painful tooth

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Most people fear something in this life. Some will crawl up the wall at the sight of a spider. Others will scurry out of the room away from an approaching cockroach. Still others are deathly afraid of clowns. Not a laughing matter, I assure you. Those sinister clowns are high up on my fear list also.

I even have a friend who’s afraid of snakes. I know that’s hard to believe. That I have a friend, not that he’s afraid of snakes. Snakes have no hands; they can’t grab you. Snakes have no feet; they can’t out-run you. And yet for some reason, my friend is still afraid of them. To me, his fear is not logical. Then again, some would say my fear of clowns isn’t logical either. Then again maybe my fear is all the more warranted. Just ask yourself: why are they hiding behind all that makeup?

Being afraid of something doesn’t have to be logical. It’s just is. There are times when being afraid is not only logical but downright brilliant. Occupying the top of my afraid list — after clowns, of course — is going to the dentist. This was a trip I had to make just last week, and, trust me, it was as painful as getting hugged by a clown.

I know of no other circumstances where one actually pays someone else to inflict pain upon them. Think I’m overreacting a bit? My fear of the dentist and their medieval chairs of torture is real and has its origin in my early years, back when I lived at 110 Flamingo Street.

My first visit was when I was 7 years old. Being naive, I thought having someone else clean my teeth would be really cool. Never in my wildest nightmares could I have imagined what was about to happen. Just sit back and open wide; this won’t hurt a bit.

After 10 minutes of enjoying my cleaning, I watched the pretty teeth cleaning lady go away – only to be replaced by the dentist. The burly man proceeded to poke, pick, and scrap my teeth with a sharp metal thingy, and all the while he was singing a happy little tune. Mom told us never to put such things in our mouths. I just knew she was going to get mad at him when I told her. Again I was wrong.

After the final rinse he said, “Your teeth look good, but you have 13 cavities.” For a moment I was really proud. I held the record! It was the most he had ever seen in one patient. I thought I was going to get a reward. Boy, was I ever wrong!

What came next is at the seat of my fear. To date, the largest shot I’ve ever received was at the dentist. Then a hooked hose was placed inside my gums that almost sucked my tongue out. The singing abruptly stopped. “This will only hurt a little,” he said. I swear I thought he was smiling as he reached for the drill.

I can toothfully say my childhood dentist may have been a good singer. May even have been a good dentist, but when it came to gauging pain he was way off key.

The whining of the drill was quickly drowned out by the jack hammering of the first of my 13 cavities. The excavation was so extensive that smoke filled the room. And to say it would hurt just a little was a colossal understatement. Incredible searing pain would have been a better description. After the fifth tooth the Novocain finally kicked in, numbing my mouth and entire head.

After that experience, the only way Mom could get me to go to the dentist was to first give me a pill. She said the pill was so I would relax and not bite the dentist again. Now, I know those “tranquilizers” I once took were actually Sweet Tarts.

Last week I had a teeth cleaning by a nice lady. Afterwards a singing dentist poked, picked, and scraped my teeth. After a shot of Novocain and two cavities filled, I was out of the medieval torture chair in less than an hour. And yes, even with the modern advancements in dentistry, it was still painful.

Afterwards, The Wife met me for lunch. During our meal a man came over and asked, “Aren’t you the guy who writes the newspaper column? I recognize you from your picture.”

I smiled, nodded and said, “Yes, I am and thank you for reading.” At least that’s what I meant to do. Because of the Novocain my mouth and face were still numb. My smile was a horrible grimace, and my speech was unintelligible. The man ran out of the restaurant.

As always in such situations, The Wife provided comfort. She patted me on my head, “That’s all right, Quasimodo. These will make everything better. ” She placed a roll of Sweet Tarts in front of me. This entire story is the painful tooth.

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