Posts Tagged ‘health’

Dental Phobia: Baby, Give Me The Gas!

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Originally published at the dead blog, Confessions of a Jersey Goddess, Wednesday, March 21, 2007.

Nitrous Oxide! Give it to me. Go on, chop my head off. I don’t care!

I stayed away from the dentist for more than 15 years because I suffer from dental phobia. Technicians at my dentist’s office in Somerville, NJ, do not doubt this. I went into the office to see the hygienist for some deep prodding/probing last week. The young lady assigned to me was not the one normally assigned. My hygienist was off. The unknown hygienist motioned me to a room at the end of the hall. A technician passing by said, “Oh, no. You’re taking her to the wrong room, she needs gas!”

african american dentistDamn straight, I need gas.

The gas used in dental offices is nitrous oxide aka laughing gas. If it were not for its use in dentistry, I’d be content to have all my teeth fall out, enduring the pain on the way. That’s how deep my phobia runs. It all goes back to when I was a child of about four or five. I guess I had a cavity or something because my father took me to his dentist, an older African-American male who probably rarely worked with children. Can you say traumatic experience?

My parents did not yet know of pedodontists, denists for children. They weren’t that common in New Orleans in the 1960s, especially not in the black community.

Eventually about four years later, my mother found a pedodontist aka pediatric dentist for whom I’d sit still, a white male. He let me come to him for as long as I liked. I was 18 years old still looking up at Squiggly the rubber alligator that hung above the dental chair.

somebody's teethBut then it happened. I got married, moved away from home to Virginia, and less than a year later encountered the dentist from hell. He undid all the work that my pedodontist had done to reassure and calm me. I found myself in terror of dentists again. (Never underestimate the power of childhood memory.)

Perhaps seven years later, I braved seeing the dentist again. This time in Augusta, Ga., where I found a young African-American dentist. I didn’t even need gas. This guy, Dr. Carter, could give a shot and you wouldn’t feel a thing. Plus he was kind. But, oh no! He moved to Atlanta. Couldn’t earn enough in Augusta.

Years later, here I am, on the gas, mouth a mess. But oh, how I love the gas. It doesn’t make me laugh, and I need more than most people to relax, but the gas definitely sends me to a land of joy so divine that I don’t even care what the dentist does to me. What does this mean? Am I weak? Who cares! Certainly not me. I’m just happy to have the needed work on my teeth done.

Pump up the gas, put on the cool jazz, give me more until I float to the point of saying, “Needles and drills, I love you.”