I’m afraid of the dentist. Not the actual person. My dentist is a very nice man, as is the hygienist. No, it is the whole concept of the dentist and what they do to you there that scares me. It is not the normal, “I hate going to the dentist” kind of fear. No, it’s one that is almost overwhelming and causes me to change my behavior in ways to avoid this every six month ritual of having my teeth cleaned.
I always postpone my appointments. Sometimes it is for legitimate reasons, a work conflict, a school thing for the kids. But sometimes, it’s just because I’m scared. I’ll postpone it several times, pushing it months into the future. When the day finally comes and I have to go, my palms sweat as I flip through an Architectural Digest in the waiting room. Once they get me into the chair, I try to make small talk to keep my mind off of the inevitable. My heart palpitates and I get the sudden urge to get up and run. Then they start with the scraping. The noise vibrates in my head, I feel as if my teeth are about to shatter. They put that suction thing in my mouth to keep me from drowning in my own saliva – and how embarrassing would that be? My obituary would say, “Died in the dentist chair, choked on her own spit.” Not the way I want to be remembered. Then more scraping and poking and prodding which reminds me of the Nazi dentist in Marathon Man and all I can hear is Laurence Olivier saying “Is it safe? Is it safe?” Then images of Steve Martin as the dentist in Little Shop of Horrors flash through my head and I’m certain that I’m about to be tormented by the real life version of these evil movie dentists. I feel on the verge of panic until they finally say, “…all done, now rinse and spit.”
This is an irrational fear. I know that. I still can’t shake it with all the logic in the world. I don’t admit it to my children because I don’t want them to pick up my phobia. I want them to love the dentist. And they do. In fact, my eight year old has already decided what she wants to be in life…a dentist. Sometimes I find her searching the internet for pictures of teeth or information about dental schools. She’s serious about this dental thing. It figures…anything to upset your mother.