The dentist will see you now

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By: Tom Fletcher, CFP®

Those have probably become the six scariest words in the English language for me. The most terrifying sound of course is the dentist’s drill.

I’ve never really been a big fan of dentists. I mean no offense, as I’m referring only from a professional standpoint. My dentist is a completely delightful person and I think she does a remarkable job patiently putting up with me. I’ve been seeing her the better part of 25 years and if I ran into her in the street, I’m certain that we’d have a happy and lovely conversation.  And she’d probably think to herself that Tom is much more relaxed and a less neurotic individual when you get him out of the dentist’s office.

I’m not sure where my phobia really began. When I was a youngster I had a very healthy set of teeth.  In fact I don’t believe I had a single cavity before I was fourteen years old.  While I don’t remember getting that particular first filling, I do recall it was the start of a sad trend.  And unlike my brother who never had any cavities (and believe me, this was “drilled” into my head over and over again throughout my childhood), I’m not sure now how many fillings I now have; but let’s politely say it is more than a few.  Though curiously over the years I can’t ever recall having a bad drilling experience.

Maybe it was lack of funds, maybe it was fear of the abyss, maybe it was because my teeth didn’t present any problems, and just maybe it was because I saw the movie Marathon Man a handful of times, but I went to the dark side after graduating from college, and had no contact with a licensed dentist for years.  I can tell you it became harder and harder for me to make that dreaded appointment because I knew what was coming.  When I finally pulled the trigger and showed up in a cold sweat at that dentist’s office, the good news was that I didn’t have any new cavities, the bad news was my mouth hurt for a week.  Note to post college kid readers:  Don’t do that!!! (And don’t ever watch Marathon Man before going to the dentist either; “no, it’s NOT safe!”).

After my sabbatical, I found my rhythm again, and I’ve been a regular customer ever since.  I think my office colleagues would agree that I frequently brush and floss between meals, don’t eat too many sugary foods and am generally obsessed with having clean teeth.  But that hasn’t seemed to stop the wear and tear over the years.  Now when I head to the dentist office there’s been a detectable pattern.  Usually it begins with 1) my hygienist cleaning my teeth for an excruciatingly long period of time (we always run out of topics to chat about - so there’s that uncomfortably dead silent phase with her and her hook), then 2) she skeptically asks me if I’ve been keeping up with my flossing and wearing my mouthguard at night, followed by 3) the hygienist and the dentist conferring about R3 or L7 or some such tooth, then 4) my dentist telling me I need to come back a follow up appointment for a “minor procedure”. 

Don’t see the movie.  But it’s definitely NOT safe!