, Salem, MA


February 4, 2014

Column: Smiling through Children’s Dental Health Month

My dentist tells me my teeth have deep roots. That’s why, no matter how many shots of Novocaine I’m given, I tend to feel every zap and zing of the dentist’s drill, causing me to jump convulsively in the chair, even to cry out, no matter how stoic I try to be.

Although I sincerely trust in my dentist’s expertise, as well as her compassion, when I needed a crown a few years back, I wasn’t sure how I’d survive the procedure. I asked my then-teenaged daughter if she wouldn’t mind selecting some music for me to listen to in the dentist’s chair, to help me relax.

You can imagine my surprise when I pushed play on my iPod and heard the Nightwish tune “7 Days to the Wolves” followed by Breaking Benjamin’s “Dear Agony” and then a song by the group Disturbed that was appropriately titled “Another Way to Die.”

Turning up the volume in my ears to drown out the noise of the dentist’s drill did relax me somewhat. So did laughing over my daughter’s thoughtfully created, yet demonic, play list.

February is Children’s Dental Health Month, annually sponsored by the American Dental Association, which prompts me to recall my own miserable childhood dental experiences and to want to get the point across to parents: When a child cries out in pain she’s probably really in pain and not just being a wuss.

I have vivid memories of being “calmed down” in the dentist’s waiting room with back issues of Highlights magazine and hunting for the hatchet in that hidden object puzzle while summoning the courage to enter the torture room. When my ordeal was over, I’d be given the honor of selecting a tiny prize from the treasure chest for “extra good patients.” But those prizes were chintzy, certainly not worth what I’d been through; and the honor was nearly always eclipsed by my mom making my next dreaded appointment, which would undoubtedly result in the next dreaded filling. As a kid, I wasn’t capable of expressing my feelings about that vicious cycle of injustice, like I am now.

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