By Jan Stadtherr
As a child, I hated to go to the dentist. As an adult, I tolerate each episode that occurs every six months.
If only I had taken better care of my teeth and listened to what my mom. She repeatedly asked, “Did you brush your teeth?” Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t, but said I had. She also told me that if I didn’t take care of them, I’ll pay for it when I grow up. Well, she was right! I’ve paid a lot of money for fillings, pulled teeth, root canals, and crowns.
Walking into a dental office in the 1950s and 1960s was not pleasant. I remember while in grade school, I told my mom I wasn’t feeling good as my tummy hurt. That was a lie. I didn’t want to go to the dentist, but I wasn’t able to go to school either. Mom called to cancel the appointment and, unfortunately, got me in two days later. All I did was stretch out the agony. Today if you cancel, you usually can’t get in for several weeks.
Every dentist I have been to has told me that I have a very small mouth and a very strong tongue. But this chatty blonde has put that tongue to good use. Having a small mouth as a child was very frustrating while sitting in the dentist chair that resembled a prison’s electric chair. It had two eyes on top of the back that was actually the head rest. Old Dr Benedict kept telling me to open wider, but I couldn’t. When he took the slow-moving drill to dig into my cavities, I thought the corners of my mouth would rip open.
I hated the now antiquated drill. While he worked savagely in my mouth, I did not want to watch the belts of the drill spin on the pullies as if I was in a factory. I usually closed my eyes rather than looking straight up at him with his balding head, deep crevices in his face, and long nose hairs leaning out to reach the light. One thing I cannot remember is if I had Novocain to numb the pain. If I did, it didn’t work. In today’s dental offices, the worst part is receiving the shot of Novocain.
Today’s dental offices have changed dramatically due mainly to technology. I recently had a crown put on a chipped tooth. The tooth broke off conveniently the day before my regular six-month checkup.
First, I received a full set of x-rays followed by a thorough cleaning and a 3D scan of my mouth. That scan was a first for me. As my teeth were scanned, I could see it on the computer screen that was rolled next to the gently curved, perfect-for-sleeping dental chair. Finally, the jagged edges on the tooth were smoothed down so my tongue would not keep reaching for it. The office squeezed me into their schedule for the crown three days later.
It was the most interesting and educational dental appointment I’ve ever had. No more temporary crowns -- the work was done in one day. My dentist made some calculations and with computer in front of him, he sat by my chair. Using the computer mouse, I watched as he designed the new crown using the scan taken a few days earlier. While he skillfully created his “art” on the computer, he shared that his mother would agree that his video gaming days has certainly helped him as a dentist today. Once the design was completed, he sent it down the hall to the CAD/CAM technology room where the zirconium oxide crown was fabricated by a 3D printer in about 45 minutes. I was able to watch the process take place. After cooling, my dentist placed and bonded the crown. There have been no problems since.
Dentistry has certainly changed! No more rinsing and spitting into a spittoon as was done over 60 years ago. With the use of a face mask that protects the patient and the dental staff as well, I no longer have to look at nose hairs either! Hmmm, but they may be able to see mine.