Dr. Hogan was the name of my first dentist. His practice was in the same building as my dad’s first office, so, naturally, it made sense that my siblings and I used him as a dentist. I have no idea how old he actually was, but I do remember that when he walked, it sounded like he was stomping his feet, and he moved sort of like Frankenstein. For a little girl, this was scary.
In reality, he might have been in his 40s, but I always thought he was close to 100. In any event, I still vividly remember the events that followed the first time I had a cavity filled. Dr. Hogan had given me Novocain, but did not advise me on the side effects.
I remember standing in front of my dad, telling him about the events of the day, and he asked me why my lip was bleeding. Well, turns out, little (well probably not “little”) Banji had, unbeknownst to her, because her mouth was numb, bitten the inside of her lip. Did you know that scars inside your mouth are not like scars on your skin? I still feel the one where I had bitten the inside of my mouth and it always makes me think of my dad and that story. And, of course, it reminds me of what happens when you receive Novocain.
Needless to say, that began my dislike of dentists.
The only dentist I really loved had been a close friend of my parents. He was the best; he always had classical music playing in the background, which made the whole experience a lot more relaxing; He also fancied himself a photographer and there were always beautiful pictures on the walls. That also made it more relaxing. He was also the dentist I used in college and usually I had to go to the office by myself, which made me feel very grown up and independent.
Yes, I have issues. This is nothing new to any of you who read my columns.
Of course, the wonderful dentist could not make up for the one I went to after I had Son #1. Apparently, I had nine cavities at that visit and the dentist reprimanded me for not taking better care of my teeth when I was pregnant. He called me to apologize after that visit, because, it turns out, something had happened to a family friend and he was just taking it out on me and my cavities.
I never went back to him, and my dentist anxiety just got worse.
Then there was the impending-doom dentist who made me feel that all of my teeth were going to fall out at any moment, and kept overbilling me. When you are married to a guy from Monsey, overbilling is a bigger no-no than usual. Once is a mistake, three times is a habit, and that was the end of that dentist. It just became too uncomfortable to keep calling the office about the bill.
And my anxiety grew.
Yet, even though I hated the dentist, I still made sure that my kids went every six months. I was hoping that they wouldn’t develop the same fear that I did. Now, I am a dentist’s worst nightmare; I only go when something breaks, falls out, or really, really, really hurts. “If you would have come in six months ago, this cavity would have been much smaller,” the dentist will say to me. “Nope, I like my method much better.” And that is the end of that.
I will have you know that I did once try the good-patient method. A few days after my six month checkup, where everything was perfect, I started experiencing the horrendous pain of what I now know means you need a root canal. “But I just had X-rays and you told me everything was fine,” I said. “Well,” the dentist began, “sometimes things just happen.” Hey dude, if things “just happen,” then I don’t have to come twice a year. I can come when my teeth really do all start falling out!
And don’t even get me started with the “Oh, your son is leaving for Israel at the end of the summer? He must have his wisdom teeth removed before he gets on that plane.” And somehow, we all fall for it. But that is for another column entirely. Everyone has got to make a living….
Wishing you all pain-free mouths filled with healthy teeth.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck really likes her current dentist…just in case someone he knows is reading this…