Scene: six years old, sitting on my father’s lap. Dr Brownstone, our family dentist, drills a lower, right tooth. I want to scream and wiggle, but cannot. My Dad holds me tight— one arm around my waist, the other across my chest. The loud and ponderous 1938 drill felt like a dangerous weapon in my young mouth.
By the time I was eight, cavities and the prerequisite drillings were a constant. I drank ample milk, ate cottage cheese and slices of Kraft American. A doctor told Mom to add an abundance of green peppers— preferably raw—to my diet. It’s not wonder I handed off my salad green peppers to my granddaughter the other night at dinner. I enjoy red or orange or yellow peppers. Green peppers give me the shivers.
My current dentist is Dr. Krowne; I kid you not. I struggled with dentist-anxiety for years until I was referred to Ken (yes, we are friends at this point and he is likely reading this blog). To say that I was nervous that first appointment with Ken is an understatement. For most of the time, we talked— about my history, my fears, and in particular my worries as I was fast approaching the need for multiple crowns given how many layers of fillings my teeth held.
This past Sunday night, I chipped a crowned tooth that had recently undergone a root canal. Ken fit me in the very next day. As I settled into the chair, I noticed the recent films from my root canal on a monitor. A thick file was open in his lap. I was not surprised at his recommendation, “The crown split. You will need a new one.”
Ken is forthright. He had warned that the root canal treatment might compromise the crown. Pouring over his notes, he noted that the porcelain crown was over a dozen years old. At that time, I was in the midst of treatment for mercury toxicity and we had agreed on a mercury-free product. This time, he recommended a gold center with porcelain surrounding. My gold crowns have held up well. I felt safe with his suggestion.
If you haven’t undertaken a crown replacement, the wear and tear is grueling. There is—the drilling down, the dust flying, the water spraying, the shaping of the impression, the tiny fear that the taffy-like compound will harden and won’t release, the bitter taste of the cord wrapped at the base of the tooth. Ken talked me through it, and in between, we chatted about Natalie Cole singing in the background, his summer vacation, my time away at Chautauqua.
At the end, I tell Ken how grateful I am for his competence. I tell him he has literally saved me from the fate of my parents and brother, who had to resort to false teeth. His response: a broad grin with kindness in his eyes. Kindness eases pain, kindness eases anxiety. I am grateful.