I went to the dentist today. I love going to my dentist. Yes, I said it. I love going to the dentist office. My dentist is very nice, conversational, and is (almost) painless in her approach. The chair I sit on for my cleanings is a vibrating body massage chair, there is soft classical music in the background, and I’m lucky enough that I don’t have too much trouble with my teeth. Usually, after a quick (but thorough) cleaning, I leave, feeling like my teeth are shiny and squeaky clean.
We sure have come a long way from the teeth-yanking dentists of the Wild West in the United States. Now, if you are fortunate enough to have insurance, going to the dentist isn’t the terrifying, pain-filled experience it used to be.
For my parents, growing up in the Soviet Union, going to the dentist was torture. Quite literally, because there was no effective anesthesia. Even now, unless you have American dollars, the only thing the dentist will do is pull teeth.
My maternal grandfather, the one who grew up in a little Jewish agricultural shtetl, grew up eating apples from the trees and potatoes from the ground, decades before pesticide, didn’t even go to the dentist until he was an older adult. The dentist looked at his teeth and shrugged. There was nothing wrong with my grandfather’s teeth and gums. They were strong, healthy, and free of cavities (although not white, since he was a heavy smoker). Basically, all he did was eat a fairly healthy diet and brush his teeth.
I understand that the subject of dentistry is one not everyone is comfortable with. Some people fear going to the dentist more than anything else, and it takes real pain to get them into the dental chair. I blame their upbringing. My husband, Jeff, remembers growing up, that his dad’s standard response to an invitation to an activity he found tedious or boring was “I’d rather be in the dentists chair.”
As parents, Jeff and I made sure that the kids went to the dentist as soon as they had teeth, and we made the experience as non-scary as possible (actually, the doctors did that, offering kids toys before and after the exam). They had such positive experiences, that my daughter, Riva, has decided to become a dentist when she grows up. To be precise, she decided to become an orthodontist when she was 12 years old and got her braces. She found the processes, the cameras, x-rays, and dental tools fascinating, and the idea of helping people have healthy, nice looking smiles rewarding. She also liked my joke “after you buy yourself a boat, I want one” — understanding orthodontists make good money.
I believe that dentists, and by extension, orthodontists, aren’t made so much as they are born. Riva and I were in a store, and she saw a small collection of dental tools (a metal pick, a little mirror, etc.). She asked me if I would get it for her. The whole thing cost about $7, so I said, sure, why not. She actually squealed with delight.
My son also had braces and was glad to have them off. While he doesn’t have a problem going to the dentist, he certainly doesn’t get excited about it. To each their own. I love going to the dentist and so does my daughter.