For some people, having a parent who is a dentist might make them less afraid to visit one. I’m not one of those people
When I tell people my dad is a dentist, they typically say something about how nice it must be to not be nervous about trips to the dentist’s office. These people haven’t considered two things: first, the average dental patient doesn’t have to be concerned that poor behavior during a routine cleaning could result in being grounded on Friday night, and second, most patients have a pain tolerance significantly higher than mine. I am, put simply, a huge wimp.
When I was growing up, going to my dad’s office generally involved lots of screaming, blood, and my father threatening to disinherit me—and sometimes this was when I was there as a patient. On one visit, after a particularly painful flossing by a dental hygienist, which resulted in loud yelping from me, he came into the room and explained that my cries were scaring away other patients, and their bills paid for my food, so if I wanted to continue eating on a regular basis I should consider being quiet. I tried to muffle my yelps after that.
Another problem that comes from being a dentist’s kid is that despite my being terrified of any level of pain, my dad insisted on my doing whatever modern science called for to have a healthy mouth. Luckily, for the most part my teeth needed the typical stuff, but that didn’t stop me from being unhappy about the upkeep. When that meant braces, I complained minimally because all the cool sixth-graders were getting them. When it was biannual teeth cleanings, I complained more because dentist’s office toothpaste tasted like stale candy. When it was having my wisdom teeth pulled out, I said no thanks. In response, my dad pulled the “I’m the person who puts a roof over your head and therefore it’s not your choice” card.
And so, during one high school summer break, he made me an appointment with an oral surgeon. I woke up that morning hopeful that a freak natural disaster would occur and destroy his office or at the very least that my parents would forget about the appointment. Unfortunately neither happened, and within a few hours I was stretched out with my mouth open and an IV in my arm. I’d finally reconciled myself with the fact that this was a fairly routine surgery when the dentist leaned over me to say a prayer for the operation—which is when I became absolutely certain I was going to die.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for praying. And I’m all for doctors praying before they cut me open. If they think the Big Guy can help, then by all means, run it by Him—just not in front of me when I’m already on drugs. I guess the prayer worked, though, because I survived. Unfortunately, his prayer was only for safety during surgery. Afterward, I was on my own. And I did not fare well.
My family had already planned to leave the same day as my surgery to spend the weekend at a mountain inn. So I sucked down some mashed potatoes and we hit the road. Because of nausea from the pain medication, I spent most of the weekend on the bathroom floor praying, ironically, for the sweet relief of death. Plus, the sutures in my mouth didn’t hold up quite as well as I might have hoped, which resulted in our hotel room looking strikingly similar to the set of Helter Skelter. By the end of the weekend, we were about one maid service visit away from being reported to the police for suspicious activity.
I eventually healed—and peeled myself off the bathroom floor. And, despite not having lived at home in years, my dad is still my dentist. This is partially because now that the grounding and threats are off the table, I’ve realized he’s actually a great dentist. It’s also because his is the only office where I can scream, whine, and cry during a routine cleaning and not be tossed out. So I guess, in my case, having a dad for a dentist isn’t so bad at all.