Monday, August 04, 2008

When I was five

... I met the dentist for the first time. Now let me explain where we lived when I was five. My parents and I moved from Ottawa, Ontario to Gagnon, Quebec in 1964. I was three at the time and nine when we left in 1970. The entire time we lived there - there were no roads leading into this small mining town, only a train line or you flew. I remember a few summers where we put our car on the train and flew to either Port Cartier or Sept Isle where we would meet our car and then drive the rest of the way to the Maritimes to visit my maternal and paternal grand parents. Other times we traveled the 193 mile long train line to one of these small cities and then flew to New Brunswick, probably landing in Saint John. On the rare occasion that we did not go "home" for the summer I remember a hot summer day meant the red had hit almost 70 F.

It was a cold, isolated small mining town and I love most of my memories of the six years we lived there. But there is one memory that is very well etched in my memories and was especially poignant today. Because today - I met up with another dentist and the only thing in common with the two occasions is that in both cases I had an abscessed tooth.

On that auspicious day so many years ago when I was five and the world still revolved, not around the sun, but rather around my parents; my mother was given the lovely privilege of introducing me to a member of the medical community I had not yet had reason to meet. Doctors and nurses I had already met in abundance as I was not the healthiest of creatures. I had the nasty habit of picking up any germ that flew in my direction but I had yet to be acquainted with the lowliest of the childhood enemies - a cavity.
But once I did, true to my then unhealthy nature, I did not just get a cavity, but I managed to develop an abscess in the tooth. So we pulled on the snow suit, the winter boots and got into the car and back down the snow packed driveway with the 4 foot high snow walls. And we did not stop until we had reached the "Mall", a two story imitation of our current day strip mall. This was THE place where anything and everything one needed could be purchased. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say this was the ONLY place where items of need could be purchased and if something was not there - there was always the post and a pleading letter to be written to family members still living in the real world.

We got out of the car and I happily traipsed behind my mother and was dismayed when we bypassed the stores and headed up the stairs. How my mother explained this to me, I don't remember. But I do recall, vividly, finding myself seated in a chair that magically laid back and was covered in shiny gray material. A little bib was pinned around my neck and a gentleman, all dressed in white, loomed over me and gravely examined my mouth. Following this my mother and he huddled in a corner conversing in low voices with my mother frequently giving me quick and somewhat anguished glances. I do remember this man in white assuring my mother that this was the only option.

Apparently, as the tooth that had become abscessed was located in the lower jaw, it would not respond to any form of anesthesia and in fact the needles to administer anything would only prolong the situation and add unwarranted pain.

I naively sat in this gray shiny chair and looked at all of the interesting gleaming instruments waiting to be allowed to get off this too tall chair. Before long this stranger in white was leaning over me coaching to open my mouth while he waved one of those interesting instruments in his large hand. It was over in a moment but I was shrieking in pain and fright while staring at my tooth that was now in his hand.

These were the memories that I hauled into the office today along with my x-rays of my currently abscessed tooth. However, I am happy to share that this visit was not a painful recreation of the first. After a lot of various numbing agents, a lot of pressure and just a little pain - my abscessed tooth moved residence and I am now happily medicated and impatiently waiting to not need those nasty little gauze pads that I need to stick every hour between my gums and teeth.

While the gap is much larger than I expected it to be, I am relieved that is not that noticeable. Hopefully before too long I can afford a spacer of some sort. I had been wishing the tooth had been below as my lower jaw could use the room as the housing there is quite crowded. However, since I learned today that abscessed teeth in the bottom jaw do not respond to anesthesia, in any amount, I am just as happy that this abscess was in the upper jaw.

And as to my poor mother - I don't recall her ever taking me to the dentist again. That job was placed squarely in my father's lap. Lucky for him - my next visit was a painless as the first had been painful and lucky for me- I got a play doctor's kit out of it. If I remember I think he wanted me to pick out the nurses kit. But the Doctor kit had a lot of stuff that looked like the dentist's equipment - and I had a lot of dolls that needed to see a dentist. (To read more about Gagnon click here. )

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