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Friday, 25 February 2011

The Dentist

By Mary B Summerlin who keeps a photostream at Flickr

Do you ever wonder about a dentist’s life? Well I do. As I sit here in the chair, my mouth is full of the dentist’s hands, drill, mirror and who knows what else. He is talking – telling me something about a friend of his.

Obviously I can not respond except to grunt or shake my head. That doesn’t seem to affect him. He goes right on with his work and his story. My mind begins to wonder – since I can’t do anything else.

The dentist spends his days with his hands in the mouths of other people. He needs to talk, so he does and it seems to satisfy him even if it is a one sided conversation. I wonder if he has any idea of the frustration I feel at not being able to respond.

My dentist and I are old friends. We’ve had this relationship for at least 40 years. So perhaps he feels more comfortable telling me the stories of family and friends.

Usually the conversation is general but sometimes it causes me great concern. He might make a political comment or a comment on current events and I might disagree or agree but can I say anything, oh no. I become a silent partner to his comments.

That really annoys me because by the time he’s finished working on my teeth, I’ve forgotten what really annoyed me. Recently, I was there for an appointment and after a short while he sat back to wait a few minutes. Ah ha, I thought, now I can tell him what’s on my mind.

I gurgled – “Can I talk now?”

“No,” he said. “The work I just did needs to dry and if you talk it’ll get wet and we’ll have to start all over again. But thank you for asking.”

Ugh, it had seemed like such a good opportunity.

I wonder if he ever considers how his comments to his assistant might affect his patient. I’m sitting there and he groans and/or says, “Look.”

I think, oh my gosh, it’s awful, it’s going to have to be pulled, I’m going to have to wear false teeth. It’s going to cost a fortune. I’ll die of the pain. It’ll take forever. And he goes right on with his work not knowing he just nearly gave me a heart attack.

Then sometimes, he says, “Ah ha” – and I think, good news. It’s not so bad. Good, I’ll be out of here sooner than I thought. I can enjoy my dinner out with friends tonight, maybe even order a steak. Somehow, it never quite works out that good.

I’m really getting to know dentists. I discovered this month that I have much work that needs to be done in my mouth. I feel like I’m keeping steady company with dentists – not just one but several.

I’m having fillings done, root canal, crowns made and old ones re-cemented, some oral surgery in which some teeth will be pulled, more surgery that requires the gum to be cut and some cut away, and I’m sure other stuff.

I told the dentist to remember that I’m not planning on entering any beauty contests and that I’m not 20 years old. I ask him to please remember that when he is deciding what needs to be done. He said he would but I think he’s more interested in making sure my teeth look like what he thinks they should look like. You know, perfection.

I went to see the root canal dentist. I was very fearful but actually the work was not painful. The real problem was that I needed to go to the bathroom room and there’s just no way to stop a dentist. I’m sitting there turning green and thinking he’ll surely be finished in a minute.

If I stop him, he has to take all this stuff out of my mouth, and move his equipment – then put it all back in. Surely I can wait a few minutes more. He finally finished, took the stuff out of my mouth, took the bib off and I said, “I’m dying to go to the bathroom and I left in a hurry.

Seems he did too, I didn’t see him again. But, the secretary was waiting with the bill just to make sure that I didn’t keep on hurrying right out the door. It seems they insist on being paid then and there! That’s one way to make sure you get paid but not necessarily a good way to win friends.

I’m reminded what my dentist said some years ago. Remember, I told you we’re friends. He saw me coming in and said, “Well, here comes my annuity.” He’s right, I’m sure I’ve put several of his kids through school.

Let’s take this one sided conversation a step further. When he goes home at night and talks to his wife and/or kids, they answer back. That must be quite a shock. They are not silent partners. They have ideas and are individuals and do not agree with everything he says.

After a day at work, he must have to go through a period of decompression to be able to deal with the real world again.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I love this story, Mary. It's so forgiving despite all the pain your dentists have put you through.

I loved this, Mary .

It reminded me of the story of the woman who said to the dentist,"You know, Doctor, I would rather have a baby than get this root canal."

To which the dentist responded, "Well,make up your mind,Madam, so I can adjust my chair."

Thank you Nancy for my big belly laugh of the day..can't wait to pass it on.

Yuck, the dentist, started off at clinic in the 40s that catered to kids who never would have seen the dentist otherwise. So I am still a bit scared of the whole process. Over the years, I have had good and great dentists and lots of need for them..both of them were very interested in my early experiences..Even though they make us healthy and even more attractive at times; I don't think they see a lot of friendly faces on arrival at their offices..I'd say I probably have spent more for dentistry than I did for first house, purchased in l967 for $l8,500 & VA mortage of 4%..Great writing..thanks

Mary, I've been there too. I've had all that stuff except the gum cutting. I am forever grateful though for the new breed of dentists in my lifespan. My mother, when I was very young (I'm 73 now) took me to a 'child's dentist'. He was not supposed to hurt. OMG he punched that needle into my gums like he was a certified vet and I was a cow. I was petrified to go to the dentists for many years when I became an adult. Then around the sixties the new breed of dentists came. They must have added the subject of patients really being people and they learned. I lost all fear of going to the dentist. My dentist can administer a shot even to my front teeth area without any pain. Amazing. Good story Mary and it didn't hurt me at all.

Hi Mary-
I am the "Seeds" lady, suggesting we all be plants. I am a walnut tree and just had an implant. He needed to remove the root (verrrry carefully) and I had no pain as he is good. And I thought a tree could lose one root, no big deal. Afterward I told him he now qualified to be a tree surgeon.

That's funny, Joanne, as is your story, Mary, although I know it wasn't fun at the time. My ex-son-in-law's late father was having expensive implants in his very old age, and I couldn't resist saying "IMPLANTS! At his age I wouldn't even buy green bananas!" (and I was right--he barely got to chew with them.)

Mary - This was terrific!

You nailed my dental experience on the nose!

Do you remember the little facial itch that desperately needed scratching just when the dentist was in the midst of a lengthy and delicate maneuver? Or that bit of mucus stuck at the base of your throat, that needed to come up or go down while your mouth was pried open for what seemed like forever? - Sandy

Tolerating all those treatments over the years allows us,in this era, to keep our teeth into old age.What if we had to wear dentures like Grandma (before middle age) or if we had to "gum it". I am grateful for a mouth full of healthy teeth--if well-filled and crowned.

Funny story, Mary and I think most of us have gone through the same agony. (Although my dentist just talks to his nurse and not me). I always need to cough when they are drilling or in the middle of some touchy procedure.

Maybe your dentist talks to his patients because he never gets a word in edgewise at home.

Thank you all for your kind words and funny stories. Yes, Joanne, "Seed Lady" I do feel a kinship since I consider myself the "Weed Lady". I do relate to your comments.

Great! loved it!

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