Thursday, December 11, 2014

When It Comes To Dentistry… The Good Old Days Weren’t That Good.

Have you ever seen a 62 year old man sit in a waiting room trembling because he was at the dentist office?  You might think that he was afraid of the dentist but in reality he has a phobia about needles.

Being a child of the 60’s (9 years old at that time) going to the dentist was the worst thing one could ever imagine experiencing.  For me personally, it was the most traumatizing event in my life, so much to the point that 51 years later I’m still paying the price.

Let’s look at dentistry in the “good old days”

First the chairs were really hard and uncomfortable and they had straps… yes straps attached to them.  If you had a problem sitting still or you were nervous, no problem, you got strapped into the chair to the point that you couldn’t move at all and in some case that included you head.

Next the dentist walked in with what looked like a foot long needle.  There was no topical antiseptic back then so he just pulled your mouth open and shoved that needle in.  The worst shots of all we in the front of your mouth under your nose (it felt like the needle was going to come out your eyeball) and in the roof of your mouth (it felt like he was trying to shove a golf ball up your nose).  If you survived that and became numb, he went to work on you.  The first thing he told you was not to swallow.  Then he’d start drilling with the assistant spraying water in your mouth to keep the drill from overheating.  Because you were told not to swallow, you felt like you were drowning.  After what seemed like a year of drilling and spraying, they put this thing that looked like a toilet bowl in front of you and told you to spit.  Then they gave you a cup of water and told you to rinse and spit.  While you’re doing all this rinsing and spitting, you’re watching the pieces of your teeth falling out along with what seemed like a gallon of blood.  The two words that struck fear in the heart of men, women and children everywhere back then were “Root Canal”.  That procedure was torture, straight out of the inquisition period.

As Far as restoring your teeth, you usually had somewhere around 3 choices:  Stainless Steel Crowns, huge fillings or extractions and flippers (usually 1 or 2 teeth denture).  As if it wasn’t bad enough that half my friends had steel crowns across the front of their mouth, I really felt sorry for the ones that wore braces.  Oh yeah remember, the railroad tracks so big and bulky and the external headgear that they had to wear all day.  Remember the old transistor radios and how they could actually make the sound come out of their mouths.  Yes my friends, those were the good old days of dentistry and me personally, I say good riddance to them.

With all my childhood experiences, I swore that I would only go to the dentist when I hurt more than they could hurt me.  For the better part of my life I’ve kept that vow and because of that I don’t have the smile that I would like to have.  I’ve had a cavity on the back of my front tooth for years but wouldn’t go to the dentist because it didn’t hurt.  It finally started bothering me so I went.  They took some x-rays and put me on an antibiotic with a follow up appointment.  The tooth stopped hurting so I rescheduled the appointment.  The day came for my new appointment and even though I wasn’t in pain, I took the plunge and went.  I was like a kid again, trembling, nervous, upset stomach, the whole bit.  I told the dentist of my fears and he just smiled and said “relax, I won’t hurt you”.  Yeah, I’ve heard that before.

Long story short, after 3 ½ hours, I walked out of the office having had an extraction and a 4 unit bridge done.  I took the shot under my nose and through the roof of my mouth and I never felt a thing.  The advances in dentistry have brought this profession into the 21st century.  Now we have strong topical antiseptics, products to freeze places before the shot, suction so you don’t feel like you’re drowning, oral cameras, digital x-rays and the list goes on and on.  Going to the dentist is still not my favorite thing, but I have made a new vow to continue to go and practice the good oral hygiene that I preach to everyone.  Although there are excellent dentists everywhere, I want to personally thank Dr. Gary Core of Apple Dentistry in Phoenix, Arizona for his caring, understanding and helping me let go of a lifelong phobia.  With that I say, “Goodbye to the good old days of dentistry and welcome to the new and vastly improved days”.

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