Warning: This post contains information some may find upsetting.
Dentists: The Bane of Human Existence
That is my topic for today. Dentists are the bane of everyone’s existence no matter who you are or where you come from. Dentists love giving pain and making you pay them for that love.
Allow me to trip down memory lane and share with you my own disdain for dentists.
My first traumatic experience with dentists came the very year I got my driver’s license. Since I lived in Pennsylvania, I was sixteen when that event occurred. A lot of traumatic things happened when I was sixteen…such as my thirteen-year-old brother and cousin deciding the knot hole in the chicken coop looked like the perfect feminine orifice. Why the second one would hope his attempts at impaling the knothole after the first one came out with splinters and bleeding would be more successful still boggles my mind all these years later.
They could not go to either my mother or my aunt to remove the splinters from their danglies (my mother had confronted my brother the week before with the condom he’d left in his pocket that caused the laundry room to flood) so who did they conscript? No sixteen-year-old should be forced to remove splinters from her brother’s and cousin’s splintered danglies. (I DID make sure to use a lot of alcohol. Couldn’t risk infection, could I?)
Shortly after that eye-searing and emotion-shattering experience, my mother came to me and commanded I drive her to the dentist and wait for her in the car. Okay, I thought, another chance to drive Mom’s convertible…what enthralled teenager would pass up such an opportunity? Not me.
I sat, quite happily in the parking lot, the top down, music rocking from the radio, the sun warming me with its loving glow, my hand caressing the Corinthian leather seat beside me. In short, I was in pig-heaven. Then Mom came back out. Her left cheek, the one that was now closest to me as she climbed into the passenger’s side and settled in, was distended from, I’m assuming, cotton balls. I wasn’t going to reach over, yank her mouth over and check, especially since little rivulets of blood were oozing out of her mouth as I watched.
Shuddering, as only a sixteen-year-old can, I turned back, started the car, put the gearshift into reverse, and got us home as quickly as the speed limit would allow. (We lived in the country…the only cop was our local pig farmer who moonlighted as our cop and on Christmas Eve, Santa…I knew he would be parked out at the Five-Points-Texaco waiting to snatch teenaged boys drag racing down Route 413.) I was pretty sure, as I engaged the gas pedal a little more forcefully than the actual speed limit required, I would not run into Officer Oinker. Getting Mom home and that disgusting sight of blood snaking down my mother’s jaw, hovering as it became a wobbling droplet before casting itself to places I chose not to think about out of my peripheral vision, was a MUST DO.
It takes a long time to recover from such a shock to one’s nervous system. I always knew dentists were out for blood, and thanks to Mom I had all the confirmation I would ever need.
Jumping ahead fourteen years. I was thirty years old and my marriage was faltering the next time I had to face a dental crisis. My then husband, a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, a division of the U.S. Treasury Department (and yes, I wondered too why the TREASURY department would have the ATF under THEIR banner. I came to the conclusion it had something to do with the ATF and the FBI wanting to be the king of the internal Warriors of TRUTH, JUSTICE and THE AMERICAN WAY. Both departments loathed and no doubt still DO loathe each other, and race to be the one to solve all domestic issues) sent me to his friend Dr. Mouther. Dr. Mouther is a short, rather squat man, who at that time was, I would guess, about fifty-five to sixty.
“Root canal”, he informed, with the soberness of a judge handing down a death sentence. “Complete with an abscess,” he continued, still in that somber, stentorian voice.
Naturally, I shuddered and gulped a little. “Okay, Doc, let’s do it.”
With his assistant, Nurse Drool, in attendance, laughing gas filling my body with euphoria, a pin prick or two in my jaw and Novocain turning my mouth into a puffy marshmallow, Dr. Mouther and Nurse Drool went to work. I actually do not remember much of that experience. He either had some exceptionally GOOD Novocain or the level of laughing gas was higher than I’d experienced before. I have little memory of the actual root canal and was happier than any lark would be.
I’d like to say my euphoria continued, but as with any artificially induced high, you do come crashing down. During the root canal, Dr. Mouther informed me he’d drilled into my jaw, placing four gold pins to anchor my channeled tooth in place. So my jaw, it seems, is richer than the rest of me. Intriguing dilemma. If I ever get desperately poor, all I need to do is yank that tooth out and sell the gold.
Pain…oh yeah…lotsa pain. So much so that three weeks later I had no choice but to call Dr. Mouther again on a Tuesday. I can hear you all asking: “Well how the heck does she remember what day of the week it was?” Because of what Wednesday would bring, I will never forget that I called him on Tuesday.
He was too busy to take me in even in an emergency on Tuesday. “Come in around 1:00 tomorrow afternoon.”
Massaging the throb in my aching jaw, I entered his office the next afternoon. I should preface this by telling you all that Dr. Mouther’s office was a wing of his private home. Heading up the driveway towards the office door, I heard some loud thumping and looked up. On the roof was a worker hammering new tiles into place. He saw me and gave me a brisk salute. I waved back with my free hand and continued on my journey.
Dr. Mouther beckoned me into his torture chamber. I looked around. “Where’s Nurse Drool?”
“It’s Wednesday,” Dr. Mouther informed me. “She has the afternoon off.”
Frowning, but in more pain than any human should have to bear, and so not wanting to let it continue, I climbed into the recliner of agony, allowed Dr. Mouther to strap the mask onto my face, inject something into my arm, and then turn on the gas. I felt my body melt into the recliner. I ordered my fingers to wiggle—they wouldn’t—and then to my horror, I heard the distinct scratching sound of Dr. Mouther’s zipper heading south.
MOVE, I commanded my body…but it couldn’t. I was literally frozen to the chair.
He did not rape me…at least not vaginally. “My area of expertise is the mouth,” Dr. Mouther explained as he claimed full ownership of mine.
I could hear the pounding echoes of the man on the roof. I could feel Dr. Mouther trying to aim his little drill towards my tonsils over and over again. My bobbing punching bag at the back of my throat recoiled from the hot force of the jet stream when Mouther’s release hit it, and all I could do was lie there, unable to move, unable even to bite down on his invasion.
When at last he was done, Dr. Mouther sealed his little drill back up behind its zipper and went about fixing my aching tooth. Four hours after the injection, I was finally able to make my body function enough to get me to my car and out of there.
I learned, when I got home, that my husband had been paid fifty dollars by Dr. Mouther to do what he did to me. (I DID mention my marriage was on its last legs, didn’t I?)
Twenty-five years later…that’s how long it took my mouth to hurt enough for me to seek out another dentist…a FEMALE dentist. Dr. Mouthoria promised me I would feel no pain, she was an expert at anesthesia. She also promised me her nurse would ALWAYS be in attendance. She kept that one.
The first three visits confirmed her claims…but then came visit four. Unlike Mouther, Mouthoria does not use gas, but there are nerves in your jaw that do not like being hit. Fire, raging fire spread out. I yelped. Mouthoria told me it would only be a few seconds more. My body wanted to catapult to the ceiling and crawl quickly away. The Novocain began to dissipate enough of the fire so I was able to let the rest continue. (Had no idea that she’d hit the nerve yet…that would come later.)
At home, the Novocain wore off and the muscles in my jaw clamped shut. I could barely open my lips enough to call the dentist and tell her what was happening.
“Come back in,” she commanded.
I have to use medical transport because I was totally disabled in a car accident eleven days after nine-eleven. Three days, it takes three days to schedule transport. On day four I got to the office. The nurse-assistant wanted me to open up so she could slip a batwing x-ray pack in so they could see what’s going on.
Open up my mouth? If I could do that I wouldn’t be there. Prying my jaw open enough, she slipped the torture device inside me, took her damned picture, and then had to pry my jaw open again to get it out.
I cannot begin to describe the pain. The fire doesn’t go out. The jaw, in an effort to protect the nerve from any further indignities, locks.
“Four weeks,” Dr. Mouthoria told me. “It’ll take four weeks for the nerve to heal and the jaw to release.”
Fifty-five-year-old women should not be reduced to eating nothing but baby food, but I could only open my lips far enough to slide the tip of a spoon between them…and four weeks actually became six weeks. It took SIX weeks for that nerve to heal. Six weeks it took for my jaw to release. It took six weeks for me to be able to speak like a real human being again…Oh, and Dr. Mouthoria could not understand why I was determined to never have to return to her again. She felt I was judging her unfairly.
Well, there you have it…three episodes that shaped my rabid fear of seeing anybody with DDS behind their name. If you were me, wouldn’t you also loathe and fear dentists?