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Davis Journal

It’s like pulling teeth

Oct 07, 2022 12:27PM ● By Peri Kinder

There are lots of people in this world who scare me, like toddlers, Christian nationalists and the barista who always compliments my shirt, even when I’m wearing a blood-stained hoodie. 

But dentists! Dentists are a higher level of fear. I'm sure they get tired of being compared to the sadistic dentist in “Little Shop of Horrors” but if the tooth fits…

My dentophobia is rooted in an experience when I was 5 where many of the details are still slumbering in my subconscious, waiting to burst when I’m least expecting it. The only thing I remember was the dentist was not my friend. 

I started dreading my annual check-up. Mom would write our dentist’s name on the bathroom mirror in red lipstick, so she’d remember to schedule the appointment. But every time she wrote it, I’d take a wet washcloth and wipe it off. I’m sure she never noticed the smeared lipstick or the dripping-wet mirror. 

Now that I’m older, I should be braver, right? I should be grateful I don’t have a medieval dentist who also works as the village butcher, barber and blacksmith. I’m lucky I’m not Tom Hanks in “Castaway” when he uses an ice skate to knock out his abscessed molar. Modern dentistry is a privilege. 

My rational mind knows all those things, but I’ve never left a dentist’s office thinking, “Hmmm. That wasn’t too bad.”

I recently had my first root canal, which didn’t ease my fears. At all. I was upfront with the endodontist and told him I didn’t like him very much.

“I understand,” he said.

“No, really. I loathe you,” I said

“Yeah, I get that a lot.”

We went from there. He offered me nitrous oxide because if I’m going to be root-canaled, I’d rather be floating somewhere near Venus. After I was nice and drifty, he told me I’d feel a little pinch as he numbed my mouth. Then he proceeded to nail my face to the chair while the nurse handed him a Black & Decker drill. He laughed maniacally, donned a hockey mask ala Jason Vorhees and started excavating my back teeth.

At least, that’s how I remember it.

After the root canal, I had to make an appointment with my dentist to put a crown on my tooth. I called the receptionist who said I could schedule time on Sept. 12 at 2:30 a.m. or wait until June 2023. Typical.

I don’t know why I’m still terrified of all things dental. The smell of a dentist’s office makes my stomach roll. The sound of a drill makes my jaw clench, which makes it really hard to work on my teeth. When it was time for my crown appointment, I sat in my car for a good 15 minutes, giving myself a pep talk. 

“You’ve got this,” I said. “You’re a big girl.”

“Nope. I’m going to Starbucks,” I responded.

“No, you’re not. You’re going to act like an adult and walk in that office.”

I stuck my tongue out at myself and went to get my crown. Not a cool crown like a Dutch sapphire tiara but a porcelain crown that I’m afraid to chew with. I’m pretty sure my dentist has a hook for a hand and he proceeded to stab my gums repeatedly, probably just for the fun of it. And then it was over. For now.

I’d rather face a zillion zombies, a multitude of mummies, a van full of vampires or a ton of toddlers before seeing the dentist again. He’s the scariest monster I know.λ