A Dental Memory Dam | HumorOutcasts

A Dental Memory Dam

September 28, 2017
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I have the same relationship with my dentist that many people do with family members: I love him and appreciate him, but I don’t actually want to see him.

I suppose that’s not unusual, but my history gives me maybe a bit more of an excuse. As a kid, I was a “problem” patient. You know, the kind who whines, screams, has to be held down–like I am now if you make me watch “reality” TV. My dentist as a kid didn’t like me much at all, and I felt the same way about him that most people feel about Benito Mussolini. (Hitler’s so overdone.)

About the time I graduated from high school, a new dentist came to town. After examining the previous dental work, he pronounced it to be the worst he’d ever seen in his life. He understood when I explained that drilling me was like trying to shoot a hummingbird, although who would do that?

Some of it had to be fixed, so he injected me with Novacaine, waited, and was surprised to find I still wasn’t numb. So he injected me again.

Then again.

All those times as a kid, when the dentist lectured me and had me held down, and everyone thought I was acting like a baby. I mean, after all, I’d gotten a shot of Novacaine.

Only the Novacaine hadn’t worked. It had never worked.

Granted, there was some relief in the discovery that I wasn’t a big weenie, after all. And I’m still not entirely sure why it didn’t work. My research didn’t show cases of people being intolerant to the drug. There are several listed reasons why it might not be effective with some people, including anxiety, which–how many dental patients don’t have anxiety? But for whatever reason, including possibly the fact that dentists don’t use Novacaine any more (my first trip to the new dentist was thirty-five years ago), I’m better. I can now go to the dentist with only crippling anxiety, instead of whatever would be worse than that.

(A quick note here: While writing this I did a lot of research, and I now wonder if my original dentist wasn’t using Prilocaine. There have indeed been cases in which that drug didn’t get patients numb. Another possibility is that I am indeed a weenie, and Dr. Hayes is just being nice to me.)

That’s why this year I tried sedation dentistry. Honestly, I don’t have a clue why I didn’t before–maybe because I’m not a fan of taking drugs, especially the ones that put you out. But earlier this winter I went in for my regular cleaning, after which Dr. Hayes announced I needed not one, but two procedures: the replacement of a childhood filling on one tooth, and a crown on another.

I became instantly weenified. It’s a real word–I should know, I just invented it.

So for the first time after all that grief, I asked the Doc: “Do you do sedation dentistry? And if not, why the *$#@ not?”

He did, indeed.

I had to pick it up as a prescription; it was a controlled substance, apparently. If it isn’t, it should be. I left it in the bag until I got to the dentist’s office, because I have a stressful job and was afraid I’d be tempted to use it after work, instead. At the office I discovered it was a liquid. Before letting me take it, the dentist asked, “Do you have a ride home?”

“Yeah, my car’s right out there.”

“After you take this, you’ll forget you ever had a car.”

I’m paraphrasing, but still.

At first I was afraid it was just a repeat of the old days. Yes, I felt like I’d just downed a half bottle of vodka (which would taste way better than this stuff, believe me). But I’d been promised forgetfulness, and I remembered most of the procedure and the ride home. The good news: Once he got in there, the Doc was able to do a repair, instead of a full replacement.

But I wasn’t done yet. A week later came the crown. And believe me, those are a royal pain.

So I got another dose of the stuff and this time, to increase its effectiveness, I went in on an empty stomach. I wanted effectiveness. A crown involves grinding down your old tooth, and although it’s not really that much, it feels as if they’re leaving only a needle point, and you wonder why they didn’t just pull the darned thing out.

I was about to tell the dentist that, too. And that’s the last thing I remember.

Apparently I cracked a few jokes, offered to drive home, and walked like I was in a Monty Python skit. So far as I know, there’s no video of this, which would have been crazy funny to everyone but me. After that it was a matter of wearing a temporary crown for two weeks, then the (mostly) painless process of getting the permanent one on. Way more effective than half a bottle of vodka, and for twelve hours I got the best sleep of my adult life.

Hopefully I’ll never have to take that stuff again … but I’m so glad I did.

This photo is actually from after my sinus surgery, but I have a feeling my expression is the same. Um, I’m the one on the right.

Mark R Hunter

Mark R Hunter is the author of three romantic comedies: Radio Red, Storm Chaser, and its sequel, The Notorious Ian Grant, as well as a related story collection, Storm Chaser Shorts. He also wrote a young adult adventure, The No-Campfire Girls, and a humor collection, Slightly Off the Mark. In addition, he collaborated with his wife, Emily, on the history books Images of America: Albion and Noble County, Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century or So With The Albion Fire Department, and Hoosier Hysterical. Mark’s work also appeared in the anthologies My Funny Valentine and Strange Portals: Ink Slingers’ Fantasy/Horror Anthology. For two decades Mark R Hunter has been an emergency dispatcher for the Noble County Sheriff Department. He’s served over 32 years as a volunteer for the Albion Fire Department, holding such positions as safety officer, training officer, secretary, and public information officer. He also has done public relations writing for the Noble County Relay For Life, among other organizations, and served two terms on the Albion Town Council. When asked if he has any free time, he laughs hysterically. Mark lives in Albion, Indiana, with his wife and editor Emily, a cowardly ball python named Lucius, and a loving, scary dog named Beowulf. He has two daughters and twin grandsons, and so naturally is considering writing a children’s book.

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