Wednesday, July 21, 2004


The fun begins
Now I can’t say that I felt completely at ease when Dr. Hammer greeted my Dad and me at the waiting room of his dental office. He was a physically imposing man, and his thick glasses didn’t exactly foster a lot of confidence in the hope that he’d be able to find my mouth let alone my aching tooth.

I will say that I was impressed with his operating room. It was a wondrous room of pristine white porcelain and chrome instruments that looked like they’d just been taken out of the crates they were delivered in. Sleek and streamlined 1930s art deco in design, they were so beautiful to look at. Who knew they held the potential to inflict such suffering? Who knew this chamber of technology would soon become a Chamber of Horrors.

Well the next thing I knew I was in the big comfy dentist’s chair, squinting from the bright light that Dr. Hammer focused upon my mouth. Just out of view of my left eye, but standing close enough that I could hold his big, reassuring hand stood my Dad. His presence curbed my uneasiness as Dr. Hammer’s hairy arms dominated my field of vision.

As I sat there I remember wondering when Dr. Hammer would manage to miraculously relieve my pain. After examining my teeth for a few minutes, I could hear Dr. Hammer speaking to my Dad in a hushed tone. The dentist was shaking his head. I didn’t know what it all meant. Then I heard him say that he was going have to remove my painful tooth. In fact he was going to remove more than one. It seemed that my remaining juvenile molars were riddled with cavities, and they had to come out. He said that he was going to have to give me a shot of something called “novocaine” to make it so I wouldn’t feel it when he pulled my teeth.

I looked at my Dad in panic. “I’m gonna get a shot?”

“It’s okay Honey,” he said as he took my left hand tightly. “It’ll just hurt for a few seconds. Just squeeze my hand.”

Then I saw the silhouette of what looked like a hypodermic fit for an elephant more than a little boy approaching me. Now I’d gotten shots before, but never with a needle so huge. I braced myself, tightening my arm as I looked away, expecting to feel the needle’s sting at any second.

Dr. Hammer hesitated and said, “Now you’re going to keep your mouth open for me, son. This’ll only take a second.”

My eyes must have momentarily bulged out of their sockets as it suddenly came to me what was happening.

“You’re gonna do WHAT? You are NOT gonna stick that thing in my MOUTH!” I panicked, squeezing my Dad’s hand harder.

“Dad!” I cried out. “NOOO!”

Dad pleaded with me, “It’s alright honey, I know it’s scary but please, Dr. Hammer just want’s to make this whole thing easier.”

I took one last look in his eyes before leaning my head back in the dentist’s chair and held my eyes shut as tightly as I could.

I felt two huge hairy fingers grapple my jaw like a hook in the mouth of a wide-mouth bass. I heard Heir Doktor say, “Keep it open for me as big as you can now,” as His index and middle finger pressed against the inside of my bottom teeth and his thumb secured the underside of my chin like a vise. The warm taste of salty skin in my mouth was quickly replaced by a rush of gripping pain that shot from the back of my mouth right down to the tip of my toes.

I squeezed my Dad’s hand as hard as I could, as my back arched in the chair. I tried to be brave and didn’t cry, but the pain was more intense than anything I’d ever felt before. I let out a low moan as the dentist injected my gums again, again, four times in all. The ordeal seemed to last forever.

Note to Self: Good Lord, why the HELL am I writing this? My skin is absolutely crawling as I think about that horrible experience!

Once the novocaine injections were over it was sort of like that sensation one gets after the cessation of banging one’s head against the wall: it feels so good when you stop. Actually I couldn’t have told you how it felt, because less than a minute later I couldn’t even feel my mouth. The good news is that I tolerate novocaine well. My jaw was truly anesthetized. However the pain isn’t the only uncomfortable thing about having a tooth pulled. As anyone who has experienced it can attest, you may not feel any pain, but you certainly still feel the pressure, the grinding and twisting of the dental pliers as they pry the offensive tooth out by its roots. YUCK!!!!

Fortunately it didn’t take too long. I lost all four of my baby molars that day. The dentist took the extracted teeth and placed them in a clear plastic cylinder with a red cap. As I examined the container, I marveled at the level of decay displayed in those four tiny molars. Each one was riddled with at least 5-7 cavities apiece. No wonder I had a toothache! And just when I thought I was in the clear, I overheard Dr. Hammer telling my Dad, “Now I’m going to need to see him back here next week. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”


On the drive home, I managed to slobber forth a question of why I needed to go back to Dr. Hammer’s House of Horrors. After all, the dentist had gotten the source of my toothache. What other “work” was there still to be done? My Dad explained that those baby molars weren’t the only teeth in my mouth at issue. My first set of permanent molars, which had arrived two years earlier, were pretty bad as well. All in all I still had about 7 or 8 additional cavities in my mouth that needed to be filled.

But that wasn’t all. Dr. Hammer convinced my Dad that all of my remaining baby teeth needed to be removed. He said that they were “interfering” with the growth of my permanent teeth. He said that unless he yank every last remaining baby tooth out of my mouth right away, my teeth would end up looking like a broken down picket fence by the time I was a teenager.

Well he was almost half right. More on that later.

Long story short, I had to go back to Dr. Hammer five more times over the course of those six weeks. He drilled and yanked and yanked and drilled, until I had a total of about ten teeth left in my mouth. When I smiled, all you could see were my two front teeth and four on the bottom.

My brother TK dubbed me “Bucky Beaver.”

The chicks dug it. Yeah, right.

Well my permanent teeth came in just as Dr. Hammer predicted. However, Heir Doktor miscalculated on one aspect of his long-term plan for my dental health. My lateral incisors (i.e.: eyeteeth) didn’t come in until I was in ninth grade. And since their juvenile counterparts had been yanked out so early, the other teeth around them came in closer together than they would have otherwise.

As a result, when my eyeteeth finally did come in, they didn’t have room, so they made room. Guess what my smile looked like when I was a teenager? Well it wasn’t quite a broken down picket fence, but it wasn’t all that great either.

Sometimes you just can’t win.

Next: “Bracing” for Middle-Age — or — Is that a hamster in your mouth or are you just happy to see me?
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