Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Gentle Hygiene

This generation of kids is soft. They won’t ever know real pain and real fear like we did as kids. Or, at least, as I did as a kid. I’m not sure what your dental office visits were like, but as for me, well, let’s just say Clint Eastwood and I had the same dentist.

When I tell my kids that we’re going to the dentist for their six-month cleanings, they cheer. They actually want to go. What’s up with that? My mom had to start searching for me three hours before the appointment time, because I had paid my friends to hide me. Our neighborhood had an underground railroad system for kids with impending dental visits.

My kids get SpongeBob SquarePants on a 27-inch flat screen mounted directly over their chair. I had bad ‘70s and ‘80s elevator music that would be drowned out by the sound resonating inside my skull of pointy metal implements being scraped across my molars.

My kids get fluoride that tastes like bubble gum or birthday cake. My fluoride was raw fluoride, freshly mined from the earth, or wherever the hell fluoride comes from. It was probably siphoned from a 55-gallon drum out on the loading dock and applied directly to your teeth, and it damn-sure didn’t taste like birthday cake. It tasted like what a mixture of used antifreeze and charcoal lighter fluid probably tastes like, and you could only spit afterward. If you drank any water to wash the (most likely radioactive) substance out of your mouth, the whole process would be for nothing, and your teeth would surely fall out of your mouth the next day.

My kids get to pick a toy from the toy box after their little dental chair vacation, happily browsing through Frisbees and Matchbox cars while they enjoy the lingering taste of bubble gum.  We were handed a new toothbrush in a lobby that smelled like raw fluoride and fear.

When I say that I had the same dentist as Clint Eastwood, I’m not joking. Dr. Kincade and Clint were college roommates, and remained good friends. Clint would fly into our town for his dental visits. I never saw him in the office, but Dr. Kincade showed me his X-rays once. I think it goes without saying that Clint Eastwood has very manly-looking teeth.

I was a Clint Eastwood fan, so it was kind of cool to have the same dentist, but looking back on it, I’m not sure it was really optimum. Clint is obviously a total badass, and so you have to assume that a college roommate he would remain lifelong friends with would be kind of a tough guy, too. I didn’t think about it at the time, but do you really want your dentist to be a Clint Eastwood-style badass? No, you don’t.

I had a lot of cavities as a kid, despite the fact that my mom did not allow sugar within a hundred yards of our house. I was just born with cavity-loving teeth. (My wife’s teeth, on the other hand, are bulletproof. She doesn’t understand why I don’t like the dentist. I pray that our boys got her teeth.)

Being the rough-and-tumble dentist that he was, Dr. Kincade used to drill and fill my cavities without Novocain. My earliest memories of the dental chair are an awful acoustical version of some Carly Simon song being drowned out by a combination of the high-pitched whine of the drill and the searing pain in my jaw, as the smell of burning tooth enamel filled my nostrils. Can’t wait to get my free toothbrush after this!

I didn’t even know Novocain existed until one of my friends told me about it as he was working to keep me hidden before an office visit one day. When I asked Dr. Kincade if I could have some, he said, “Do you have a brother? I always thought you were the one who didn’t need it.” I guess I looked tougher than I really was. It’s still a toss-up as to which hurt worse, though – the Novocain shot or the drilling without it. Clint’s dentist had big needles.

Son Number One just had his first cavity, and he was in the chair watching SpongeBob last night getting it fixed. He was nervous beforehand, and I tried my best to reassure him that it would all be fine, but I think he could hear the uncertainty in my voice. Or maybe I told him about my cavities as a kid. Either way, he was nervous.

The first thing he got was a delicious swab of numbing gel that tasted just like cherry soda. Yummy. Then he braced himself for the Novocain shot that he actually never even felt. He happily watched SpongeBob’s hijinks down at the Krusty Krab as his cavity was drilled and filled in less than ten minutes.

“What was I nervous about, Dad? I didn’t even know he gave me the shot, and I never felt a thing.”
“I told you it would be fine.”
“I know. I don’t know why I didn’t believe you.”
“Probably because I didn’t believe me,” I muttered under my breath.
“Nothing, buddy. I’m glad it didn’t hurt. You did great”
“SpongeBob is funny. Can we get ice cream like you promised?”
“Clint and I never got SpongeBob.”
“Nothing, buddy. Let’s go get some ice cream.”

I’m telling you. This generation is soft.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

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