The Dreaded Trip to the Dentist

January 12, 2011
By poet4 SILVER, Arlington Heights, Illinois
poet4 SILVER, Arlington Heights, Illinois
6 articles 0 photos 0 comments

As a little girl, every six months the ritual trip occurred. The dimly lit fluorescent lights hovered above me, I was surrounded by outdated, old people magazines, and every time the door cracked open, my heart skipped a beat as I waited in anticipation. I sat at the edge of the seat and observed the never-ending telephone ringing and the “ding” of the bell at the front desk, as my heart raced faster, faster, faster. The dreaded, “Come on back Natalie, it’s your turn,” from the assistant always came sooner or later. I followed her to the back, realizing that the waiting room was only the first obstacle.
As a little girl, I swam in the giant dental chair and I felt like a tiny foot in a shoe four sizes too big. My eyes wandered around the room, glancing at huge, pointy, metal equipment, and terrifying mysterious machines. There was a deep growling behind a door that haunted me for the whole appointment. I was certifiably traumatized. I looked up into the eyes of a familiar face, but not quite a familiar context. “Can you pull up my daughter’s chart,” I heard him call to his assistant.” This was not the daddy that played Pretty Pretty Princess with me or the daddy that read me bed time stories. This daddy had a big mask covering his face, and was shining a very bright light into my face.
“Open wide,” he would repeat over and over, but I just sat there and wouldn’t budge. My big eyes stared into his and tears began to well up. He gave me the open-your-mouth-and-let-me-clean-your-teeth-or-you-will-be-grounded-when-we-get-home look. Then, I would jump out of the chair and run to the farthest corner of the office. My dad yelled, the assistant held me down in the chair, and together they restrained me from moving, despite my strong unwillingness to follow directions. I came to loathe going to the dentist, but my dad said that the alternative was to send me to a specialist if I couldn’t behave. A specialist! There is no way I could go to a specialist, so I let my dad probe at me with weird utensils, cram tons of metal into my little mouth, and take very uncomfortable pictures of my teeth. With time it seemed to get a little better, besides the unsettled and antsy feeling I continue to receive.
I would not consider myself a star patient, but I can at least sit still now. The unbearable waiting room is not scary anymore, but rather a familiar room that I am very comfortable with after spending plenty of before school and after school studying hours there. Sometimes, I sit behind the counter at the receptionist’s desk and look out into the cozy little room and I see nothing frightening. Going to the dentist is more of just a chore now, not a near-death experience. The hallway leading to the backroom is really only a couple yards compared to the mile and a half it appeared to be years ago. Now eighteen years old, I recognize the hum of the machines behind the back door. I look at the tray of utensils and notice the dullness and simplicity of them. The electronic toothbrush is no more than a little tickle in my mouth, and the dim orange light shines over my face, not as obtrusive as before. The smell of the latex gloves, and the plaster from the impressions swirl around my nose, as the alcohol cleaned tools enter my mouth. It surprises me at how much I never noticed before, now that I am not focusing solely on remaining conscious. Scattered throughout the walls are my handmade masterpieces, messy scribbles, and my four-year-old signature on the bottom.
The workers continue to try to fantasize the appointment by pulling out the play dinosaur and toothbrush. This was no source of amusement as it had once been. I stare and attempt to force a smile. I can’t believe my dad still has that little treasure box with toys for after your appointment. The assistant offers me one and I just laugh. Unless there are any cell phones, itunes money, or gift cards, I really can’t think of a use for a little keychain or a sticker. As I walk out I spot a little girl squirming in and out of the chair and I hear the moans as she is bibbed and reclined. I can’t help but think of myself and how much a single office changes, but stays exactly the same over fifteen years.

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This article has 1 comment.

Kaciebugg said...
on Jul. 28 2016 at 10:37 pm
My father is a dentist too.Imagine all of this plus Aspergers(my reality).I'm 15 and still get nervous at the dentist.Could you let me in on the cure?:) P.S.-Did your dad ever hold your nose till you opened your mouth?Mine did.I got surprisingly good at holding my breath.LOL

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