Friday, December 16, 2005

I'm Not An Anti-Dentite

After about five days of severe throbbing pain in my right lower jaw, I got to see the dentist yesterday. As my friend Gwen says so eloquently: Weeeeeeeeee.

But seriously, I hadn’t been to a dentist since 1997, just before moving from Ottawa to Hamilton. I did try, though. Over the years I've made appointments -- but each time I had to cancel, either because I was working as a retail manager (crazy schedule) or because I live in Hamilton and work in Toronto. I know, I know, convenient excuses -- there must be something more going on.
There is.

I’m a huge chicken.

You see, in the town I grew up in, the one dentist we had looked a bit like the character Laurence Olivier played in The Marathon Man. For those of you not old enough to remember this old Dustin Hoffman movie, it’s about a runner whom these bad guys believe witnessed a crime. There are some pretty terrifying scenes in which Olivier keeps asking a captive Hoffman “Is it safe?” -- to which Hoffman replies: “Is what safe?” -- then Olivier proceeds to yank open Hoffman’s mouth and starts drilling holes in his teeth (no anesthetic, of course).

So there’s that movie, and also this scene from my childhood. I remember driving my bike down the street and hearing someone screaming and crying at the top of his lungs. It’s my buddy Pete M. (No, not Pete Mitchell of blog-world fame, but my very first friend Pete Mihajic). Pete’s standing there crying, and when I ride by to ask what’s wrong he just ignores me. But his mother, who is trying to drag him down the street explains that he’s a little frightened of going to the dentist.

Pete was a year older than me and at that point had taught me many things about life and the world, like the fact that you should knock before entering someone’s house. His was also the first phone number that I memorized thanks to his patient help (of course, you only needed to dial 4 digits in our town, so it was relatively easy at an early age). So he wasn’t only my friend, he was my mentor. And he was terrified, refusing to go to the dentist. Thus he taught me that fear, too. Thanks, old buddy.

So there you have it - Laurence Olivier and Pete Mihajic helped spawn my great fear of the dentist.

But I’m overcoming it. Yesterday’s appointment was a lot of laughs actually, despite the fact that Dr. Ivankovic told me I’ll need to have a root canal (scheduled for the 29th). And, then, after she explained that it had nothing to do with a gondola ride in Venice, I was still relatively relieved. Why? Because she gave me a prescription for antibiotics (there’s a bit of infection and damage to the nerve of a back molar which is causing the excruciating pain) and Tylenol-3. For the first time in about a week I’m able to properly focus thanks to the blessed codeine flowing through my system. But I’m also relieved and happy to learn that after not having regular dental checkups that the root canal (and about three cavities) are all that’s wrong with me. (Okay, all that’s wrong with my teeth, because anyone who knows me knows there’s plenty wrong with me)

I’ve read a bit about root canals, and they’re not as bad as people make them out to be (speak to me in a couple of weeks once I go through it and I might sing a different tune) -- but in the meantime I should remain positive and hopeful. And speaking of which, I must say how wonderful Dr. Ivankovic and her staff were -- how they helped put me at ease, calmly put up with my hair-trigger gag reflex, and of course, lovingly talked me down after I screeched at the top of my lungs and then scaled to the top of the ceiling-fixed lighting arm and tried to stay out of reach there, shivering and uttering under my breath “is what safe is what safe is what safe.”

And a word of praise, of course, for Dr. Andrews, my hometown dentist. Yes, he looked a bit like that nasty character from a movie of my childhood. But he was a good dentist and a great man. I remember how he always tried to put me at ease by talking to me about fishing. Of course, my Dad always thought he was trying desperately to find out, through me, his secret fishing spots -- maybe my Dad had similar yet unspoken Marathon Man-like suspicions as well -- after all, he did have those drills and I’d likely say anything if he kept them out of my mouth.


Franny said...

Your fear of the dentist is not irrational. They are sick, injurious wierdos for wanting to spend the rest of their lives in someone else's mouth.

And they hurt you oh so much.

Anonymous said...

I hear ya Mark. I am also afraid of the dentist and like you I avoided going for years. But then I was referred to a guy in the Beaches and I really like him. He explains everything he is doing which I like and he doesn't look at me like I am crazy when my knuckles turn white and my breathing gets erratic out of sheer fear. So yes I am a 'fraidy cat and it's a wonder I'm alive - but I have come to terms with it. :)

Anonymous said...

I need just over $4,000.00 in dental work and a lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-t of hours in the dentist chair.

Fortunately, I made sure to get a dentist that's...ummmmmmm....pretty. I figure if I'm going to spend the next year sitting in a chair while someone hurts me, it may as well be a pretty woman so I can get some bizrre, kinky pleasure out of it. And I'm sure anyone who truly enjoys dentistry won't object when I ask: "So if I'm naughty and scream, will you spank me?"

So there's your solution. Somewhere in there.

Magdalena said...

A few months ago I had ALOT of dental work done as well ... something that I had always avoided, but alas could not run from anymore! I had two root canals done in one day and no it isn't as bad as people scare you into believing, but I will say this, it was almost FIVE HOURS in the chair and I didn't realize how active and aware I had to be for the procedure and it really annoys me when they tell you "now whatever you do DON'T SWALLOW" which of course, just makes you want to swallow like mad!

In truth though, I think that the worst thing about the dentist is the price and that is the reason most people don't go, it was mine. Before I left Canada a dentist told me that to fix three teeth it was going to cost me over $6000! I went home in tears! Luckily things seem to be a lot cheaper and FASTER in Texas. For half the price I got my two root canals, several fillings and a cleaning and their scheduling worked a lot like this.

"When can I come in to get this done?"

"Well, I have an opening tomorrow"

As opposed to my Canadian dentist, "Sorry hon, we can't get you in any sooner than three weeks from now!"

Good luck Mark! I am sure that it will all go well. And I have to say not having your teeth hurt make such a world of difference to your overall sense of well-being.

Virginia said...

Root canals are a conspiracy. Those in power tell us we are dependent upon them for happiness and physical well-being. With further ties to drugs, sterilization supplies and the lucrative 'position' of dental hygenists, we are blindsided into the malicious world that is fodder for horror and drama.

Mark, you'll feel so much better when it's done! Best wishes!

Sassy said...

I hAaaaaaaaaaaaate the dentists office!! Your HNT pic is freakin fantastic! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Anonymous said...

Mark, I hadn't been to the dentist in 26 years (my parents had 5 kids and a philosophy...if it's not broken, don't fix it!)...but I went this year...I had an infected wisdom tooth, which was removed, and count 'em, 12 cavities....

so after a long and drawn out process that now has me on rather friendly terms with my dentist and I betcha not so friendly terms with my insurance teeth look and feel better than ever!

and my dentist is a great guy...course I think he reminds me a little of you in looks and personality...maybe that's why I don't mind visiting...

hang in there!

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LisaMajic said...

Peter Mihajic's blogsite:

(I'm his niece -- last name Mihajic, of course).