A visit to the dentist was never my favorite activity. I was traumatized as a kid; the pain, the sounds, the smell, the tools and, worse of all, the constant threat of taking my candies away. They were all the perfect combination for the most terrifying nightmare. As I got older and dentists became more sensitive to the comfort of their patients, I must admit, there were times when I look forward to sitting in that reclining leather chair with the soft tunes in the background, no matter how hard they drilled into my teeth I felt relaxed especially because I had a nice break from tending to the needs of my adorable family. Unfortunately, yesterday my dentist experience took me back to the years of terror and this time I did not have my mother holding my hand as I used to.
A few blocks away from the marina was his office, the dentist’s office. I met him a couple of days ago when he checked the kids in the hallway to his office, he seemed nice, his prices were reasonable and I was not too concern about the quality of his service, I just needed a cleaning. For US$20, why not?... well, after my experience today, I have many reasons as to “why not?”; possible attacks, torture with pain, exposure to 100 different kinds of germs, possible breaking of the teeth or ripping of the gums and certainly, the doubt of “are my teeth clean now?”
I walked to his office at the end of the dark alley, open the door, hoping to find a room full a patients and a secretary holding the sing up sheets and offering a seat. Instead, I found him with his head down, his arms crossed and the signs of active dreaming. It was a few seconds until I startle him and realized it was too late for me to leave. The room was quite, bold and dark. No much in there to keep anyone awake and no one there to make me feel more comfortable with my decision to visit ”any” dentist.
He was so happy to see me, as if I was the first or only patient in a while, he thanked me for coming back and invited me into the examination room where I found the old leather chair with the crusty stand for the tools. They looked sterilized. He made me open my mouth, placed the mirror and the probe and started to dig into my gums. “Nice, nice… very nice” he says. (I would never expect those words from a dentist). As he cleans he talks to me in his broken English despite knowing that I am a native Spanish speaker and that it would be impossible for me to reply with tools in my mouth. I did manage to smile for a while, until I told him my gum was sensitive and he dug deeper, I repeated it and so did he; he dug even deeper. I realized it was better to forget about sensitive gums and let him finish quick. I needed to run out; especially after I let my brain dragged me into the deepest paranoia. It was only me and the dentist, in a room inside the room, all doors were closed, I was buried in a leather chair with sharp poky tools, I was vulnerable!
The final step of the cleaning was the polishing; he walked a few steps to the back shelf, grabbed a white jar of paste and scrapped the corners of it with a little brush that connected to a drill. He placed the brush onto my teeth and realized it didn’t work, therefore he must finish the job manually, by moving the brush up and down hard, hoping I wouldn’t notice.
“Beautiful!” he says, I stand quickly and paid the bill. “Please bring your kids and your husband!”… mmm “Ok” “I will see”, I said “Never” I thought.
Although I wanted to run from the moment I stepped into that office my heart fell sorry for the man, I trusted my fate.