This household has started out the New Year with a bang! My quarterly cancer tests showed a cancer marker had returned. So, I will get re-tested in six weeks. My husband was diagnosed with his first cataract. And, the very next day while eating, of all things, meat loaf, I lost a tooth filling.
Now, for most people getting a filling replaced is not a big deal. But, for this gal, with all of the bone hardening drugs that I have to take for my cancer damaged bones, going to the dentist could end up with complications that could give the most stoic of souls nightmares.
After my tongue found and fell in love with the sharp hollow crater, I immediately reported the loss to my dentist. An appointment time was set for the next day. It wasn’t too long before the dentist’s office called me back to ask if I could come in a half hour earlier. No problem!
When I got to my dentist’s office there wasn’t even time to get my new insurance card back into my purse before I was called back. My dentist of many years came in and informed me that the filling I had lost was a very old one. She acknowledged that it had done very good service, but it was now time for a crown.
It was show time. Needles delivered pain, then numbness and sun glasses went on. The high whine of the drill, the only sound more obnoxious than finger nails on a chalk board, resounded throughout the office and my brain.
As the drilling commenced in earnest, I tried to mentally focus on my favorite place, the Trail of the Cedars in Glacier National park. I could see the the water falls cascading hundreds of feet straight down into the icy cold crystal clear glacier lake. I could almost hear wind whistling through the craggy mountains peaks. Almost, but not quite.
Dentist drills are hard to ignore. I started thinking about that old tooth filling. My last from childhood? Instantly, I slipped away from peaceful mountain meadows right into an over-sized antique dentist chair in Litchfield, Minnesota.
Dr. Farish was our family dentist. He had curly grey hair, wore glasses and a white lab coat, and seemed to be always leaning over me with a drill bit the size of a car jack clutched in his fist of enormously fat fingers as he threatened, “If you don’t sit still, you will get Novocaine”.
Somehow trips to a medical doctor in those days always ended in shots….in your end. A successful trip to the dentist was not the absence of cavities. It was avoiding a Novocaine shot to the head.
It was an experience sitting beneath the well-oiled cables and spinning pulleys that sprang into action when the drill began its work. The drill was so big and slow that your whole face shook as it came into contact with the offending cavity. You knew the dentist was getting somewhere when you could smell the putrid smoke of your burning teeth.
There you sat with your tiny hands clutched to the arms of the dentist chair as if your life depended on it. Your focus centered on the prevention of wiggling, grimacing or groaning. Wiggling, grimacing or groaning was to be avoided at all costs as it sent you straight to the head of the line for the dreaded Novocain shot.
Many a sin was repented in that chair. Hoping a loving God would prevent your demise by drowning in your own spit or the perspiration dripping off of the dentist’s forehead. As your mouth overflowed with juices, the good doctor shouted above the whine of the drill that if he stops for spitting, it is only going to take longer.
Prayers were said for courage so that you wouldn’t shame yourself by crying, as your siblings were usually watching in the doorway. Going to the dentist was an officially sanctioned farm family group activity and was considered a form of entertainment in the spectator sport category.
Visiting, a long lost communications art form where people politely talk to each other face to face, was widely practiced during my youth. Even, in a dentist chair. With a mouth full of huge dentist fingers and equipment, a nod or well-timed grunt sufficed to keep the conversation going.
During each visit my dentist would retell the story of his heart attack while on the local golf course. More details were included with every appointment.
The basics of the story were that my dentist was golfing with his good friend who was a surgeon. This surgeon not only practiced at our local clinic, but he had written a book about making a surgeon that had topped some list that impressed adults. He was a local celebrity to be sure.
There my dentist was, golf club in hand when he was dropped right to the ground. Not by lightening, but by a heart attack. As he laid on the green drifting between life and death, his golfing buddy, the surgeon, began screaming, “Somebody get a doctor!”
Once the heart attack story was completed and after the last of the squeaky metal filling had be pushed into your tooth with the same tool grandma used to get walnuts out of their shells, the aqua blue paper drool bib held together with alligator clips was removed.
Your reward for “being a good little girl” was picking a plastic gemstone ring out of the little square orange box, that would break before you got home. Or, a colored animal shaped pencil eraser that smeared more than it erased.
Off you’d go, happily skipping away with your hard earned prize and a new tooth brushing kit.
Of course you’d have to try out that tooth brushing kit as soon as you got home. Into the bathroom you’d go excited to use the little kid’s sized tube of toothpaste on the new toothbrush.
Then, after you gave your pearly whites a rigorous going over. After a quick inspection in the mirror of your glowing smile, it was time to put the pink pill that came with tooth brushing kit in your mouth and chew it.
When you opened your mouth the red dye from the pill made it look like you’d bit your tongue off and were bleeding to death. I am convinced that whoever invented that pink pill had no intention of ever having any child successfully pass the toothbrushing test.
The day’s adventures ended as an exhausted youngster said her bedtime prayers with pink teeth. Or in this case, with a new crown.