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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 20, 2017

Dental drama: Facing [ir]rational fears

By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News | Aug 11, 2017

Flashback to the mid-90s for a second and imagine a 6-year-old Andy Krutsinger lying back in a dental chair while his mom talks to the dentist in the next room.

I can still remember the aching feeling I got in my stomach when I heard the dentist say, “Your son has an overbite. He’s definitely going to need braces.”

Six-year-old Andy was ready to be a big boy, and that meant making big boy decisions. So I decided right then and there that I would never go into another dentist’s office ever again.

It was a pretty smart strategy at first. I skated by a good chunk of my life without having another appointment.

If I were proactive, I would have made sure to brush my teeth three times a day, floss after every meal and exclusively drink water. That’s what you have to do to have perfect teeth, you know? But I wasn’t very proactive and that’s how I got into my current situation.

I’ve always had three fears in life: the dentist, bees, and dying before the Cubs win the World Series. I was able to shake one of the three last fall, and I don’t think I’ll ever trust those flower-huggers, so now is the appropriate time to talk about my irrational fear of getting my teeth worked on.

Since my early days, I’ve been to probably four or five different dentists and haven’t liked one since I moved to Mt. Pleasant.

I don’t know if it’s just getting older or if the people at Mt. Pleasant Dental Associates are just that much better than every other dentist I’ve seen, but the last couple of times I’ve been in the chair, it really hasn’t been that bad.

And that’s 100 percent honest, by the way. I’m not just saying that because I’m scared they’re going to read this and then go all Italian Mafia on my incisors next time I go in to get a filling.

Anyway, just know the things I’m going to talk about are mostly from the mind of that little 6-year-old kid who almost ran away because he didn’t want to go in for his sixth-month check up.

My least favorite dental appointments have never been the fillings or even getting a tooth pulled. I did have a root canal once, but I think that’s a suppressed memory because I can’t recall any of it.

The thing I had always hated most was the teeth cleaning. The scraping, the little electric thing, the taste in your mouth after it’s done.  It’s just not for me. I think maybe the Novocain calms me down a bit, and they don’t inject you for just a cleaning, so that’s why I get all bent out of shape for routine procedures.

In the old days, you’d get that x-ray when you went in to get your teeth cleaned. You know, that one where they stuff your mouth full of all those rubber things, tell you to bite down and then run back to a room 20 miles away and finally take the picture.

I always felt like the dental hygienist was taking a little extra time getting to the button when I was in the chair. Maybe stopping to get a cup of coffee or check how their fantasy football team was doing. And you absolutely have to bite down right or it’s gonna happen all over again!

The new x-ray machine is a lot cooler and faster. You get to stand and hold on to these bars while the machine clamps down around your head and spins around like you’re in the Tron movies or something. It’s way cooler and less painful experience.

You know what else they don’t do in Mt. Pleasant? They don’t tooth-shame you. That was always a big annoyance with my old dentist.

“Are you sure you’re brushing every night? Did you even open the floss we gave you last time? Are you seriously still drinking pop and Gatorade instead of the clear water we told you to stick to?”

So annoying. And they’d always ask you when the last time you had been in was, and if it was too long ago, they’d shame you some more. You shouldn’t be able to do that. This isn’t confession! I don’t interrogate people who come into the news office, quizzing them to make sure they have read every word of sports pages past.

One of the most tense checkups is the one where the dentist looks at all your teeth and speaks in code to their assistant about which teeth to work on and what to do to them. You always know it’s bad when they start using terms you’ve never heard before.

“Alright we’ve got a distal here. Another distal…distal…okay, we’re gonna need to run a 22-gut on the second molar...let’s go ahead and impeach these canines back here and then we’re just gonna have to straight up nuke the entire bottom left quadrant.”

It’s scary, man. I never got people who liked going to the dentist. I always thought that was real psycho stuff, like you didn’t want to be alone with someone who liked getting their teeth cleaned.

But you know what? I can really feel myself getting over it a little bit at a time… You kind of have to when you hit adulthood.

Maybe I just needed to find the right place. I don’t think I’ll ever get to a place where I’m looking forward to my biyearly checkups, but I think I’m ready to go after this irrational fear head on and teeth out…or in, whichever makes the most sense.

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