06 January 2012

Dental Check-Up Time

Welcome back. I just got back from my dentist’s. He did a superb job of loading me up with Novocain and replacing an ancient filling that finally caved to popcorn kernels. (I eat a lot of air-popped popcorn.)
Simulated reconstruction of 
Warren’s dentist at work
Are you afraid to go to the dentist? The thought of going to a dentist spooked a former colleague so much, he kept putting it off. His minor case of nerves was nothing like the sheer terror I used to experience when I was young. Unlike today, fear used to be warranted.

Growing Up with the Dentist 
Dentists hated kids when I grew up. Maybe not every dentist, but even if our dentist didn’t hate me, he enjoyed torturing me. And my parents paid him for it, too, I think. So there might be more to it.
Our dentist’s nurse was very nice. (They were “nurses” or “assistants” then, not “hygienists.”) For the most part she was there to make sympathetic faces and go “Ohhh” each time I screamed, which I usually did as soon as I saw the dentist.
In those days, you went to the dentist when something was wrong, not periodically for a cleaning and check up. I would do anything…no, everything to avoid going to the dentist. If my tooth ached so much I squinted, I’d keep that to myself. If I chipped or cracked a tooth, I’d keep that to myself. If I had a gum abscess, I’d…you know. 
And teeth and gums were much more prone to hurting in those pre-fluoride, pre-flossing, pre-periodic cleaning, pre-sugarless gum, pre-soft-toothbrush days. Oh, and while there was Novocain, it was used sparingly for the big stuff, like extractions.

One of several tools
used for extractions when
Warren was young.

And the non-disposable needles were blunter with barbs.
Enlarged view of tip of needles
used when Warren was young.

Philippine Dental Appointments

By the time I was in college, I was tough; I could take it. Go ahead, torture me. Take Novocain for a filling? Ha! No way.

I don’t remember why I had to see a local dentist when I was in the Philippines, but she was so impressed by my courage and she charged so little, I had her update any questionable filling. She worked alone in her Spartan office with equipment I hadn’t seen in years.

Examples of tools used by local Philippine dentist.

Before I returned to the U.S., someone suggested that I visit a dentist in Manila, where dental care was top-notch and the cost was much lower than back home. Wow! I entered a space-age examination room, with ergonomic chair, speed drill, dentist and staff in color-coordinated uniforms, the whole shebang. 

Simulated reconstruction of
Manila dental exam room.
Female simulations of Manila
dentist (standing) and Warren (sitting).

The dentist gently probed as his nurse--"hygienist"?--stood close by, ready to serve. After careful study, he concluded that the work I had had done locally, though far from cosmetically pleasing, would hold together.

Simulated reconstructions
of what Manila dentist
encountered in Warren’s mouth
U.S. Dental Appointments

Back in the States, my dental life evolved over the years with 6-month cleanings and check-ups, flossing, fluoride, equipment and techniques that advanced with each visit, and Novocain for everything...I don’t need it…You do…No, I don’t; I’m tough…You’ll flinch; I don’t allow that when I’m working…

About 15 years ago I had a dental epiphany. On a first visit to a new dental office, I was shown the evil decay-causing micro-creatures that were sloshing around in my mouth. Ugh!
That night, I rushed out to buy an antiseptic mouthwash, and I’ve rinsed at least twice a day since. Evil or good, the micro-critters don’t stand a chance.
Wrap Up
What a pleasure to go to the dentist nowadays! They try so hard to save each tooth and to do it painlessly. About the only part that always hurts is the bill. I’m exploring dental tourism. The Philippines is kind of distant but I’ve never been to Mexico or Costa Rica.
Thanks for stopping by. I’ll write again in about a week.


  1. That was a fun trip. I remember those days with a sharp, jabbing pain. I must have flinched more than most, because at one point my dentist resorted to Nitrous Oxide. That was the best trip the dentist EVER. (I think it was for an extraction of wisdom teeth.)

  2. I still remember (how could one forget?) the extraction I had, many moons ago in Taiwan, when the top part of the tooth broke off at the gum line, as the dentist pulled, and he had to use some pointy tool to go in and excavate the rest. I'm not sure if there was Novocain; I probably passed out when that pointy thing went in.