By Norris Chambers

              This is a an unpleasant subject for an Old Timer’s Tale, but it probably should be told so that modern youngsters (anyone below the age of 70 is a youngster according to the Old Timer) will know how much more fun it is now than it was then. The subject is the dreaded trip to a dentist.

            Now most people go to the dentist at regular intervals for teeth cleaning and checkups. Many youngsters go for cosmetic reasons such as teeth straightening etc. Modern equipment, methods and procedures have made the visit almost painless and much less frightening.

            In the old days most country folks didn’t visit a dentist unless there was strong evidence that the visit was necessary. A toothache was considered a necessary reason.

            I was about eight years old when a toothache took me to a dentist for the first time. The visit is something that I will never forget. The big chair that he had me sit in was rather frightening. All of the strange tools in the area added to the apprehension. I guessed that they might be used on my teeth and that didn’t impress me as being much fun.

            After he was informed that I had a toothache he asked politely which one it was. I stuck my finger in my mouth and pinpointed the culprit. He took something like a knitting needle and punched around a bit on the tooth and on other teeth that hadn’t bothered me. He kept muttering “hmmm, hmmm” as he inspected. Finally he turned to my dad, who had brought me in and said. “One needs to come out and there are three more with cavities that should have fillings.”

            My dad came over and looked while he pointed out the defective teeth. 

            “Might as well go ahead and get it done,” he agreed. “Go ahead.”  Without hesitation the dentist picked up one of the tools that looked a lot like a staple puller and asked me to open wide. Before I really knew what was happening, he clamped the aching tooth and started shaking it back and forth. I heard what sounded like bones snapping and crackling and the pain was terrific. Before I could shout or scream he brought the plier-like tool out with my tooth held between the jaws.

            “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” he asked. Before I could think of the proper words to give him an answer he was stuffing cotton in my mouth.

            As bad as that was, it was nothing compared to the filling operation that he had mentioned. He rolled a tall stand with a tube hanging from the top and a foot pedal at the bottom over to the chair and instructed me to open my mouth. 

            The thing on the end of the tube was a drill and it was being turned by the foot pedal at the end of the stand. When he applied it to a tooth it was very noisy and loud and soon it was generating enough heat to be painful. Eventually the ordeal was finished and a fear of dental offices was initiated.

            But things gradually improved during the ensuing years. The drills were faster and eventually an anesthetic was used for filling and tooth pulling. The water cooled high speed drills were the best thing that could have happened to make the dentist visit more bearable.

            With the modern methods and procedures that dentists use now there is really no reason to dread a visit to the dental office. Cosmetic dentistry is preventing many people from spending a lifetime with ugly teeth. Regular cleanings and checkups are allowing the natural teeth to last longer and give better service.

            So everyone should make regular visits to the dentist for proper teeth maintenance.  Is this a fun thing?

            Well, even now I wouldn’t classify it as a fun thing. But compared to dentistry when I was a kid, it is FUN today.

            Remember, fun is a relative thing – some things are funnier than others.