Being a Woman
Given a choice between an appointment with the dentist and walking unarmed into a crocodile infested swamp, you’ll find me unhesitatingly skipping into the midst of the crocs with a smile dancing on my lips. If it’s a sunny day I might even sing to them in dulcet tones (People who are aware of my singing skills, kindly desist from sniggering ! ) It would be a pleasure to frolic with the crocs and we might even squeeze in a couple of games of beach volleyball if it ensured escaping from the dentist. The threat of being considered a Happy Meal by the reptiles pales in comparison to the thought of the dreaded drill in the hands of a determined tooth doctor. The infernal whine of this instrument of torture features rather prominently in my worst nightmares.
I can easily be considered a dentist’s dream if you take into account the frequency of my visits and the kinds of procedures I’ve had to undergo. My trysts with dentists started at a young age when I had an intense affinity to sweets. Since this intensity has only increased over time I’ve been a consistent visitor to dental clinics. Upto my college years, I was a regular at the state run dental hospitals. My mom was a doctor and had a lot of friends there who were quite eager to work on my teeth. These hospitals used to see a continuous influx of trainee doctors or interns. The fledgling tooth specialists were encouraged to observe seniors at work and this from a patient’s point of view was quite harrowing. Imagine climbing onto the dreaded chair and lying supine with eyes closed, hoping quite irrationally that the dentist might overlook me and move on. Naturally nothing like that happened and the doc would start doing whatever dentists do to teeth. Once escape was ruled out, I would open my eyes with a weary sigh, and nearly bite the dentist’s hand in shock, seeing the ring of faces around looking intensely into my mouth. Let me assure you that it was quite terrifying ! Once the shock of being stared at wore off, I would become very conscious of my nose. Sounds strange but it was quite a concern for me. I would think about blackheads on my ‘slightly’ prominent nose. In the bright light focused on my face surely they would be looking like tiny boulders. Next I would start thinking of my nostrils. Gross but true. In my mind my nostrils were like caves, through which all the interns could look into my innards. I would try to shut my nostrils but threats of asphyxiation would have me taking in deep breaths soon. This deep breathing once made the doc think that I was in distress and the poor guy was quite upset until I assured him that breathing in noisily through my nose was something I did to entertain myself. The third stage after the shock and the nose obsession was the smile. After realising the futility of worrying about my nose when I couldn’t do anything about it, I would look around at the spectators and realise that I have been very unfriendly to them. The result was an attempt to smile on my part. The only problem was trying to do it with mouth wide open. Try doing it in front of the mirror and you’ll realise how petrifying it is to behold. After a couple of times of this frightful attempt at a smile the interns would slowly beat a retreat until there was no one left. It was only much later that I understood the potency of my smile and stopped terrorising interns.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to witness the refinements that have happened in the field of dentistry . The clinics have got more swanky and the instruments of torture have become sleeker. Now there’s even a pipe which sucks out the saliva pooling in the mouth. This particular equipment emits a hissing sound which invariably reminds me of Darth Vader. There’s only one thing which hasn’t changed, and thats my fear. I think I was braver when I was a child. Nowadays just the whine of the dreaded drill makes my heart gallop and sends rivulets of sweat gushing down my body. And don’t even get me started on the chair. Its designed in such a way that we are at our most vulnerable; neither can you jump up and bolt nor can you fully relax ! The advances in this field has at least ensured a decrease in the pain involved. Yet I’m tortured by the drill and its infernal sound.
I have no complaints against dentists per se who I believe are the most mild mannered among the tribe of doctors. I’ve yet to see a dentist without a smile and who doesn’t speak in low soothing tones. The problem’s that it makes me all the more terrified. I equate doctors speaking in soothing tones to death scenes in movies. Have you noticed in movies how the doctors are super nice just before they tell somebody that they’ll die ! I thought that if I went to a dentist who is also a good friend, my fear would be vanquished. Everything went well until he put on his mask and switched on the drill. Then like clockwork my fear kicked in and I just wanted to kick him on the shins and escape.
My encounters with tooth doctors continues and going by my love for sweets will continue for a very long time. I’m constantly devising new mechanisms of coping with my fear some of which even involve heavy dosage of anaesthetics. I’m sure that someday I’ll reach my goal of sailing in with a smile and retaining it even after I hear the drill 🙂