My baby cousin has her birthday this week! And in this very special year for her, I want to give her a very special gift. You see, my youngest cousin is a dentist specialized in treating children! Therefore, I present you: a Horrible Dentist Horror Story!
As a kid, I never brushed my teeth. Wait, I did, once a week, before going to the dentist. Yes, going to the dentist was a weekly event for me. That is at least how it felt like. A look at my old milk teeth confirms the feeling however: only one milk tooth has no filling; all the other ones have several. My permanent teeth weren’t spared either. If I catch my kids not brushing well, I have them look into my mouth and I tell them with an open mouth: “This is how your teeth look like if you do not brush your teeth! And every filling comes with a lot of pain!” Because that is how I remember my visits to the dentist: a grumpy old lady who did not talk to me except for “Open wide”, the sound of the drill and pain. (I just realized that that old lady was actually around my mom’s age.) It resulted in a profound fear for dentists. Simply the smell of a dental office gives me the chills and I have to keep myself from running out screaming, even if it is my kid and not me in the dental chair.
The orthodontist didn’t improve the situation, even though he did improve my teeth. I went from suffering in the dental office to suffering all the time. The braces I got around my tenth birthday were nothing more than a horsebit for kids. The only time I was allowed to take them out was to eat, simply because you could not actually eat with them. In fact, I could barely talk with them. I still remember the pain of those first weeks, where my mouth was filled with mouth ulcers, due to the rubbing of the plastic. I cannot, however, remember resisting having to wear them. Maybe I thought I got off lucky: my brother’s braces even had a girdle around his head pulling his jaw into place!
Adulthood did not bring any relief. In fact, I cried my eyes out and Frederik had to calm me down like a baby after my last dental visit in Belgium in 2011. You know this saying that every baby costs you a tooth? A couple months after giving birth to Janne, I want to get my teeth checked out. As it was “just a check-up”, I plan an appointment with an unknown dentist nearby, hoping to be able to skip the one and a half hour travel to my old home town to visit the dentist in the future. As the middle-aged friendly man hanging over me tells me that everything is looking good so far, baby or no baby, I slowly release my grip on the dental chair and start breathing again, still carefully. When he says, I do not even have a cavity, I rejoice and start relaxing a bit. At that point, he starts shoving something between my teeth with brute force. Tears fill my eyes and I cringe onto the dental chair to help me cope with the pain. I feel and taste the blood in my mouth while he keeps jamming that thing in my mouth, teeth after teeth. “You need to floss more”, he says as he hands me the mirror. I almost pass out when looking at my mouth: Blood fills the gaps between my teeth and is smeared all over. He shows me his torture device: a dental toothpick. “It is a lot faster and easier to handle than dental floss.” I walk out, flabbergasted, violated and in a lot of pain, never to go back again. But I do floss now.
As an experienced sufferer of dentist horror, I feel entitled to tell you the difference between a good dentist and a dentist trauma: Words! Communication. Makes. All. The. Difference! Please tell me that you are going to shove toothpicks between my teeth and that it is going to hurt! Please tell me what you are going to do before you do anything at all! Especially in my mouth!
Only now I realize what made my childhood visits to the dentist so traumatic. It wasn’t the pain, but her complete lack of communication. In my memory, she only talked to my mom, and as my mom did not accompany me on my weekly visits, she did not talk at all, except for the commands: Open wider, rinse, spit,… She did not ask me how I was. She did not tell me what she was going to do or if it would hurt. In complete silence – except for the sound of the drill, I just laid there with my mouth open, completely at her mercy. That whole time in that chair I was in a state of panic, ready to run. Just thinking about it gives me the jitters. She did not treat me as a kid, she did not even treat me as a patient. She treated me like a sore. No plastic reward at the end could ever make up for that feeling. The fillings she gave me are still holding up after all those years, so does the dentist trauma.
Ik wens je een gelukkige verjaardag!