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Tooth extraction: then and now

November 2, 2016
By Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican

Remember those long ago days when pulling a tooth required only a piece of string and a doorknob.

After the door was slammed and the baby tooth was out, you could tuck the tooth under your pillow to await the visit from the generous Tooth Fairy. I thought about those good old days as I gripped the arms of Dr. R's dental chair with sweaty hands. I was only half listening to his dental discourse about my current problems. As he wrapped up his explanation, my mind clearly focused on the words "root rot."

"Root Rot!" It sounded like some dreaded tree malady.

Instead, he said, "the roots of the two teeth that have anchored that old bridge are both in bad shape. I can save one, but the other will probably have to come out."

I knew this would be no doorknob and piece-of-string project.

Dr. R. has been the trusted caretaker of the Schenk family's teeth for decades. But, like many fields, dentistry has now become an area of specialties. Once Dr. R. did what he could to correct my problem, I'd have to go to an oral surgeon.

Combining the words "oral" and "surgeon" stirs a deep-seated anxiety in those who can be classified as dental cowards... like ME.

From the time I was given my appointment with this new specialist, Dr. S., I had been visualizing him. I pictured him straddling my crouching body with a determined look on his face and a gleaming pair of pliers in his gloved hand.

On the dreaded day, I was surprised to find the waiting room filled with relaxed people casually reading magazines. I heard no screams or groans from behind the door to the treatment rooms. And the staff members were warm and welcoming. Over the next half hour, one patient after another was led through the door. But, I began to notice none ever came back out. How strange.

Finally, it was my turn. My heart sped up a bit as I made my way to my designated treatment room.

Unlike the dark and forbidding place I had been picturing, the room was a bright, pleasant space. It was decorated in an underwater theme with pictures of tropical fish, coral reefs and a mobile of exotic sea creatures.

Then I met Dr. S. Instead of the scowling man I had envisioned, Dr. S. was a petit blonde with a ready smile and a sunny disposition.

Her professionalism and confidence made my anxiety disappear.

After deadening the area, Dr. S. and her assistant worked smoothly as a team. In a short time, the doctor said with a smile, "That was quite a big tooth!"

"You mean you're done?" I asked in amazement. I had been expecting some pain or at least a bit of discomfort. But, happily, I experienced neither.

As I left the room, the assistant had me turn the opposite direction from which I had come in.

Now I understood why no patients came back to the waiting room. This last step in each procedure was for bill-paying. It was here that the pain set in.

As I took out my credit card, I remembered the old saying: "Put your money where your mouth is."

That long ago cure of the doorknob and the string were far less complicated and expensive.

Do you think there's a chance the Tooth Fairy of our childhood might still make house calls for the AARP set?

 
 
 

 

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