Dreading the dentist

Wade McIntyre

Going to the dentist is never fun.

It usually costs money and causes physical pain, or both.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, barbers were the town dentists. You went in for a haircut, shave and tooth pulling, accompanied by a shot of whiskey.

Why can’t it be that simple in the modern world?

Now days, you pay a ton of money, walk out unbarbered, and dentists want to do things inside your mouth that would have gotten them shot in the Wild West.

I’ve developed a phobia about dental encounters. I’d much rather floss and brush a couple of times a day than sit down in a dentist chair with a drill hanging over my head.

Lots of folks dread going to the dentist.

Imagine the Tea Parties we’d have if Congress and a battalion of gleaming, white toothed, dental lobbyists passed a National Dental Health Care Bill?

I last had dental work out west in New Mexico. The hygienist did extensive periodontal cleaning, one side of my mouth at a time.

“Will it hurt?” I had asked.

“Only a little. I’ll numb you up.”

“With what?”

 “A shot. It may sting a bit. Lean back and close your eyes.”

“How big is the needle?”

“Not big. I have it in my hand behind my back.”

“Can I see it?”

“It’s better if you don’t.”


She shrugged and extended the piece.

 “That’s a horse needle,” I groaned. “Just give me a shot of whiskey!”

Last week in Louisiana, I took my son in to see a dentist to get tests required for a job he is planning to take. All I had to do was pay for part of the bill and sit in the office lobby and wait for him to get the once over. How painful could that be?

There were two big flat screen televisions blasting away at each end of the lobby.

No matter where I sat, I could hear them both, a Sponge Bob cartoon on the left, Fox Network news on the right.

Trapped by a sponge and phony Fox talking heads, I fought off a toothache-sized headache.

Meanwhile, a couple of wild-faced kids commandeered the room, screaming and jumping, while a fat man wedged inside his chair, wearing flip-flops, a stained undershirt and Bermudas, his feet on a coffee table, head kicked back, snored loudly.

The world was closing in. Dental phobia had extended its boundaries outside of the dental chair into the dentist reception room of my life. For a moment in that dental office, I didn’t know if I was on another planet, or if I should wish to be on one.

Then, I experienced an awakening, and all became clear. Dealing with dentistry in today’s world requires finesse and management. My years of dental distress now provided a means to deal with dental phobia.

All I had to do was make an appointment out west at an aged adobe office on the high plains of New Mexico.

There, an all-knowing dental hygienist would easily placate a regular brushing and flossing gringo afraid of sharp objects and drills in his mouth, sedating me with the oldest trick in the   dentistry book- losing the horse needle and serving up a shot of old-time medicinal whiskey.

Mastering dentistry is easy when you know teeth pulling history.