A Dental Memory Dam

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I have the same relationship with my dentist that many people do with family members: I love him and appreciate him, but I don't actually want to see him.


I suppose that's not unusual, but my history gives me maybe a bit more of an excuse. As a kid, I was a "problem" patient. You know, the kind who whines, screams, has to be held down--like I am now if you make me watch "reality" TV. My dentist as a kid didn't like me much at all, and I felt the same way about him that most people feel about Benito Mussolini. (Hitler's so overdone.)


About the time I graduated from high school, a new dentist came to town. After examining the previous dental work, he pronounced it to be the worst he'd ever seen in his life. He understood when I explained that drilling me was like trying to shoot a hummingbird, although who would do that?


Some of it had to be fixed, so he injected me with Novacaine, waited, and was surprised to find I still wasn't numb. So he injected me again.


Then again.


All those times as a kid, when the dentist lectured me and had me held down, and everyone thought I was acting like a baby. I mean, after all, I'd gotten a shot of Novacaine.


Only the Novacaine hadn't worked. It had never worked.


Granted, there was some relief in the discovery that I wasn't a big weenie, after all. And I'm still not entirely sure why it didn't work. My research didn't show cases of people being intolerant to the drug. There are several listed reasons why it might not be effective with some people, including anxiety, which--how many dental patients don't have anxiety? But for whatever reason, including possibly the fact that dentists don't use Novacaine any more (my first trip to the new dentist was thirty-five years ago), I'm better. I can now go to the dentist with only crippling anxiety, instead of whatever would be worse than that.


(A quick note here: While writing this I did a lot of research, and I now wonder if my original dentist wasn't using Prilocaine. There have indeed been cases in which that drug didn't get patients numb. Another possibility is that I am indeed a weenie, and Dr. Hayes is just being nice to me.)


That's why this year I tried sedation dentistry. Honestly, I don't have a clue why I didn't before--maybe because I'm not a fan of taking drugs, especially the ones that put you out. But earlier this winter I went in for my regular cleaning, after which Dr. Hayes announced I needed not one, but two procedures: the replacement of a childhood filling on one tooth, and a crown on another.


I became instantly weenified. It's a real word--I should know, I just invented it.


So for the first time after all that grief, I asked the Doc: "Do you do sedation dentistry? And if not, why the *$#@ not?"


He did, indeed.


I had to pick it up as a prescription; it was a controlled substance, apparently. If it isn't, it should be. I left it in the bag until I got to the dentist's office, because I have a stressful job and was afraid I'd be tempted to use it after work, instead. At the office I discovered it was a liquid. Before letting me take it, the dentist asked, "Do you have a ride home?"


"Yeah, my car's right out there."


"After you take this, you'll forget you ever had a car."


I'm paraphrasing, but still.


At first I was afraid it was just a repeat of the old days. Yes, I felt like I'd just downed a half bottle of vodka (which would taste way better than this stuff, believe me). But I'd been promised forgetfulness, and I remembered most of the procedure and the ride home. The good news: Once he got in there, the Doc was able to do a repair, instead of a full replacement.


But I wasn't done yet. A week later came the crown. And believe me, those are a royal pain.


So I got another dose of the stuff and this time, to increase its effectiveness, I went in on an empty stomach. I wanted effectiveness. A crown involves grinding down your old tooth, and although it's not really that much, it feels as if they're leaving only a needle point, and you wonder why they didn't just pull the darned thing out.


I was about to tell the dentist that, too. And that's the last thing I remember.


Apparently I cracked a few jokes, offered to drive home, and walked like I was in a Monty Python skit. So far as I know, there's no video of this, which would have been crazy funny to everyone but me. After that it was a matter of wearing a temporary crown for two weeks, then the (mostly) painless process of getting the permanent one on. Way more effective than half a bottle of vodka, and for twelve hours I got the best sleep of my adult life.


Hopefully I'll never have to take that stuff again ... but I'm so glad I did.


This photo is actually from after my sinus surgery, but I have a feeling my expression is the same. Um, I'm the one on the right.



Stone-Eater Added Sep 28, 2017 - 5:30am
Good one ! I have the luck to have very good teeth, but whenever I have to go to dental cleaning, I tell the guy to give me some shots. No problem. Just....smoking a cigarette after is quite difficult because I forget that I even have a mouth....
wsucram15 Added Sep 28, 2017 - 5:51am
Terrible, sorry you have to go through that.
I have had the good fortune like SEF, to have good teeth and have always taken very good care of them.  I have only had one poor dentist (due to insurance) and will never do that again.  I will pay my dentist of 12 years cash...before I go anywhere else.
Gotta love your providers...
Leroy Added Sep 28, 2017 - 7:39am
Thanks for sharing your story.  Gave me a good laugh to start the day.
I've found that a pretty nurse holding your hand is a cure for pain.  I had all four wisdom teeth pulled at once.  She held my hand the entire procedure.  It might have been especially painful when the doctor planted both feet on my chest and started pulling with all his strength, but I didn't show it.  I'm like, "Go ahead.  Pull another one.  Is that all you got?"
I guess they don't do the laughing gas anymore.  I always hated it anyway.  The dentist used it when I was a teenager.  Oh, it worked just fine.  What I hated were the corny jokes.  I would try my best not to laugh, but I couldn't help myself.  Fortunately, with enough gas, I was so far out there in la la land that I didn't even remember it.
Even A Broken Clock Added Sep 28, 2017 - 11:06am
Good story and loved the description on the picture. I was confused as to which one was you!
I had so many dental procedures as a kid (braces, 8 teeth pulled to make room for the remaining teeth before the braces), that I became somewhat inured against dental pain. I had my wisdom teeth taken out under Novocain, and I remember them having to use a hammer and chisel to break one of the teeth apart. After that, cleaning and even a filling are a breeze.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 28, 2017 - 2:19pm
Stone, I used to think I had bad teeth, but they've been holding up pretty well since I moved into town as a teenager ... better water, or maybe worse water, depending on your point of view.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 28, 2017 - 2:20pm
A good dentist makes a huge difference, wsucram. Mine is one of those guys who so obviously loves his job that it leaves you a bit jealous!
Mark Hunter Added Sep 28, 2017 - 2:22pm
Leroy, a pretty nurse is a cure for anything.
They put me out when they dug out my wisdom teeth, so I didn't get the nurse experience ... but maybe it was for the best. I only took the laughing gas once, and although it worked, I really hated the feeling.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 28, 2017 - 2:26pm
I'm humbled, Clock. No matter how bad my stories might be, I've found there's always someone who got it worse, and it looks like you're it.
My first steady girlfriend had braces, and since then I have to admit I've found them cute on females--but my best friend in school also had them, and he suffered enough that I'm glad never to have gotten any, myself.
Mircea Negres Added Sep 29, 2017 - 4:35am
Another good story, Mark. I enjoyed it, but also flashed back to my last adventure with a government dentist, which was definitely less funny. That day was in the beginning of the summer holiday and the dentist on duty was bitching that she was working while her colleagues were relaxing at home. The flag went up, a big red one, and stayed up. First they gave me a shot in the palate, which numbed my mouth in about 30 seconds, then I was sent out. In went a kid, and for over 10 minutes he sounded worse than a guy getting his head cut off by an al Qaeda idiot. It didn't frighten me, but it was taking too long and when I walked in, the shot had almost worn off, so the quack gave me another. The needle went into the bone (heard it grind) and hurt like son of a bitch, then we waited for it to kick in and I said "Aaah"... She tried to pull the tooth, but the root was stubborn, so a nurse held my melon to the chair's headrest and the quack finally pulled the stump out. I was sent home with my upper lip swollen like a character from the Simpsons and cotton wool in my mouth, after which I proceeded to endure agony with every bite for the next three months- and the scumbags never gave me so much as an aspirin! I resolved that day that I would either have to rob a bank or win the lottery, then go to a private dentist instead, because there was no way in hell I'd ever use a government one again, so today I'd need about R350.000 (over US $ 20.000) to fix my teeth. I've got 30 problems- not quite 99 like in the song, but it still sucks... Thanks for the story, you put a close-mouthed smile on my face. 
Mark Hunter Added Sep 29, 2017 - 4:40am
We'll, I was glad to have helped, but sorry I triggered that memory!
John Minehan Added Sep 29, 2017 - 5:59pm
No one ever looks forward to going to the dentist; but as a kid I learned that "glass snakes" were actually lizards while reading something in the waiting room, so some good came of it . . . . 
Michael B. Added Sep 29, 2017 - 9:27pm
Once when in Germany I went to the "dentist". The gruesome twosome consisted of a pair of plump, determined-looking women who could have passed for Hermann Goering's daughters, one blond, the other brunette. It lasted about five minutes; the blond one shook a twisted and wicked-looking instrument at me and said in harsh English, "You must FLOSS more!" I remembered there was a concentration camp named Flossenburg, and somehow the connection was made immediately. I bailed.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 30, 2017 - 1:03am
They are? It is fun to learn something new, John, although my wife the snake expert probably already knew. My current dentist has a great selection of magazines, but he also usually has a short wait time, which is even better.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 30, 2017 - 1:05am
Michael B, that sounds like dentists who are in it for the pain ... which probably happens more often than we'd want to know.
I'll bet there aren't many people who've gone to the dentist and not been instructed to floss more.
opher goodwin Added Oct 4, 2017 - 2:48pm
Dentists were a nightmare. Before high speed drills I had filling with the old slow ones without any novacaine. They were a nightmare.
Mark Hunter Added Oct 4, 2017 - 2:55pm
That pretty much defines nightmare to me!

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