Taking a bite out of denta-phobia

Published 6:27 pm Saturday, June 9, 2012

Most days I consider myself a good grown-up. However, when it comes to the dentist’s office, I revert to childhood fears and apprehensions.

I was never a big fan of the dentist growing up. It was a necessary evil my mother put me through. Of course, most of the feelings of fear and animosity stemmed from having an awful dentist. He had no chair-side manner and was certainly one for believing in a little pain while in the chair was good for the soul.

Those twice-a-year visits left me detesting the dentist’s office and then ultimately not going. I think the shame of not going on a regular basis mixed with the fear of what might be was a perfect recipe for disaster. I didn’t go, and for a long time.

But, pregnancy-related crazy teeth issues led to far worse and back to the dentists I went. I had no choice. Dr. Jones was an answered prayer, kept my teeth from falling out and got me over my fears. Well, most of them anyway.

SO, what happened next? I got tested.

A crowned, root canalled, molar abscesses. And not a little infection mind you, a full-blown, crazy, painful infection. But, being the good grown-up that I am, I call, get a prescription for the infection and make an appointment, all the while scared to death.

Really this was a huge step for me. I would never have been so Johnny-on-the-spot if my dentist weren’t the greatest. However, those old fears took root, and once the medicine kicked in I thought to myself “well, I could cancel that appointment and just wait it out” but I didn’t, I am a good grown-up remember?

I found myself in the dentist chair waiting to get numbed up for an extraction.

Needle in mouth ready to go, with “I think I can, I think I can” running through my head. Next thing you know, the man across the hall, in another room, starts to growl.  Now mind you not just any old growl, but a full on bear, ready to attack growl.

“Dear God, get me out of here, someone is about to go postal and it isn’t the growling bear man across the hall” screamed through my mind. Grrrrrrr! Again, with the growling and this time louder. I looked at my dentist, with tools in my mouth and managed to say “Really?” “Seriously?” Did this man not know how much strength, courage and perseverance I had to muster just to sit in that chair, without adding to it by growling? I wanted to march myself right over to that room and bark at the man, maybe bite his ankles while I was at it. Instead we all just started to laugh.

I know people can’t always help themselves and fear can get the better of any one of us.  The poor, old, growling man across the hall wasn’t in his right mind and couldn’t help himself.  Whatever he was going through was far worse than I will hopefully ever go through and it had nothing to do with the dentist’s office.

So the lesson in all of this is, no matter how old I get, or how good a grown-up I am, I am still going to get scared and going to be tested.  I just need to remind myself to take a deep breath, keep it in perspective, and if necessary growl back.

Oh, and just as a side note, go to the dentist, or find your way back to the dentist; whatever it takes just don’t let your teeth fall out.

A Yankee with a Southern soul, Gillian Pollock is a wife, mother of two ever-challenging children and director of Christian Formation at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.