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.
Thank you for a totally “believable” written piece. I felt that I was in the chair having a crown replacement by Dr. Krowne, and I didn’t mind it so much because of Ken’s caring. You described each step in such detail that I saw and experienced what you were going through. I was relieved when your dental procedure was over, and that you could go on with your day! Thank God for Ken’s empathy and excellent listening skills, which made the procedure as comfortable as possible for you! We need to have more Dr. Krownes trained in dental school to have his gentle bedside manner. Hopefully, dentists-in-training are learning how to cultivate these vital personality qualities to lessen or alleviate common dental anxiety. Why not have our dentist feel less intimidating and more like a friend!
Bev, empathy, indeed, makes all the difference. It is possible to show empathy and run the drill ( so to speak) as my story shows. I hope that dental programs include awareness of empathy and appreciation of history in their teaching.
Yes grateful too that I have almost all my teeth, but envious of the younger generations who had fluorid treatments and have no fillings, like my daughter! Grateful too that I’ve have a wonderful dentist for the past 35 yrs.
Pat, it is amazing how the advances in tooth care have made such a difference in our children and grandchildren’s experience. Keep flossing!
Love the picture of your teeth and smile.
Glad the teeth travails are manageable.
You got a terrific dentist.
How fortunate we are to have the teeth we have at our age.
I remember my parents struggles with false teeth and my sister’s
I say let’s keep chewing!
🙂 Yes, let’s keep chewing! Many thanks, Hy.