Saw one of my favorite people, for what had been one of my least favorite appointments,… seeing the dentist. Dr. Quickstad and his staff have allayed whatever fears my teeth and I had about hands poking around inside my mouth. To say they are considerate is an understatement. Never have I been queried more about my well-being during a dental visit. But they are so efficient and capable, that they needn’t worry.
My first experience having my teeth looked at was the summer before entering 6th grade. Our family was too poor to afford such luxuries as repairing what we already had. We could only take care of our daily needs; the future would have to wait until we hit the lottery (nonexistent in those days). I’m not certain whether it was a nagging toothache or the desire to look better when I smiled. I had skipped 5th grade, going from 4th into 6th. I wanted to “measure up” to older students who would be my peers. But knowing myself as I do, my mom probably dragged me, “kicking and screaming” to the dentist because of the hammering ache from a tooth.
As it turned out I didn’t know pain until I sat in the chair of a middle-aged, Chinese dentist wearing wire-rimmed eyeglasses. The framed certificate hanging on the wall across from where I sat, probably indicated where he’d trained. All I remember is hearing someone say that he’d been an army dentist. He went on to demonstrate on me, how he’d worked on strong, military guys. I should’ve enlisted after the treatment I received.
The dentist was kindly, but formal and stiff. From his demeanor I understood that he didn’t stand for nonsense. Not that I would cause any; I didn’t want him to get carried away with his drill or needles. I don’t remember there being an assistant, but there might have been. I can only remember watching the dentist’s every move, with eyes like a hawk’s.
Over the course of many months, the dentist worked a miracle. Badly decayed teeth were removed or filled with silver. The improvement gave me the self-confidence to open my mouth without hesitation, smiling, laughing, grinning, speaking. But I must admit the path to my new look was sheer agony.
Novocaine was administered with a needle that looked like it was meant for a horse. And there was no numbing the area beforehand. As the dentist stuck the huge needle into my gums, administering the sedative, I pressed my head as far back into the headrest as it would go; it would’ve gone further if it could have. I was only anesthetized for extractions, fillings were done “cold turkey.” The drilling felt like a jack hammer inside my head. When it hit a nerve, it took all my self-control not to want to kick somebody, anybody. But as a Catholic school student, I was expected to suffer in silence, and I did.
I came to like and admire the middle-aged, Chinese dentist, wearing wire-rimmed glasses. He discounted my fee because of our financial situation. My mom always paid what she could each time, $5 in cash. I felt proud when I handed over the money; for a moment I didn’t feel so poor.
My first dental experience ended happily, but it didn’t negate my fear of dentists. So throughout the years, I’ve not attended to my teeth as I should have. Somehow that chore always fell to the bottom of my list of things to do. But I did make certain that my daughter’s teeth were always looked after. I didn’t want her suffering, physically, mentally and emotionally, as I had. Her teeth are gorgeous, thanks to braces.
At 61 I’ve found Dr. Quickstad who, with his staff, has made dental appointments more like…visits with friends. They’re ensuring that through the remaining decades of my life, I continue to bite, chew, swallow, and smile, grin and laugh with all my pretty teeth showing.
no more pain, only friends…hugmamma.