Wednesday, October 5, 2016

My Dentist

This was part of a longer post from 2009. 

As a kid on Long Island, we had a family dentist. His office was a short bike ride away; going to appointments on my own was my first really grown-up experience. Down Benjamin Road, then cut through Ellen Terry Drive, which was named for the actress, not some builder's daughter. I liked knowing that. Ride under the giant poplars hiding the too-big-for0-the neighborhood, gated, wonder-who-lives-there house and then cross Brower Avenue. Carefully, very very carefully, looking left then right then right again because there was a triangle one block down that way and cars came from both sides of it and merged in front of the office. For a while, there was a little farm on that triangle, and that made crossing marginally easier. I came home from college one Thanksgiving to find 3 houses blocking the long view of the furthest right angle.... but I digress.

His office had crisp copies of Children's Highlights (or was it Highlights for Children? I just searched to find out and now it's just Highlights. This really didn't start to be a post about change...... anyway..... ) The magazines were fresh and plentiful and there were pencils to use for the games. There was a clean medicinal smell that made me relax and smile. I was sitting in the office all alone, without any parents or babysitters. I'm sitting up taller right now just thinking about how mature I felt.

His patient's chair was adjustable and I never felt too small. He himself had broad, flat, cool fingers. He'd finish his exam and then gently pat my cheek, lugubriously wondering aloud if I knew that he had children who would need college educations and with perfect mouths like mine he'd never earn enough money to pay for them. I was proud of my teeth and so was he.

Years later, one of those children cleaned my teeth just before my wedding. He'd taken over his dad's practice and most of the patients and their children were still around. It was one of my first experiences with a peer as a professional and I think it was odd for both of us. Well, I know it was odd for me. I got over it soon enough, and he listened when I told him that the smell the drill made was brown. Apparently, there was something called synesthesiaand I wasn't crazy to smell it or to know that 8+6=14 is numeric but also pastel. Yes, the 8 and the 6 are pink and yellow Cray-Pas and the 14 is peachy, with a bit of violet wisping through. I kid you not. This is true. And the new young dentist knew about it. How cool was that? Then we started laughing about his dilemma : what to reply when our-parents-age-patients asked him if nitrous oxide was like smoking marijuana. Oh, how he didn't want to go there.


  1. Interesting. Synesthesia is really a thing...fascinating when it happens, but hard to describe unless you've experienced it for yourself. Impossible to convince those who aren't familiar, that it does in fact exist. Glad I'm not the only "weirdo". Never as a result of nitrous oxide tho! :)

    The dentist has never been my're a lucky one.

    ...You're description of the adventure getting your independent self to his office on your bike made me smile. ;)

    Great post, a/b.

  2. I actually like going to the dentist. Hubby does too and he's been going to the same dentist for 40 years. Saw the dad and now see's his son.

    Having a design background, I'm going to have to look up synesthesia. Sounds really cool.

    I had to giggle at the laughing gas.

    Hope you are having a great day.

    Megan xxx

  3. Sounds like a good experience. I remember the first time I went to the dentist alone. I was a little nervous, but I felt like an adult. I loved being independent. I recently switched dentist offices and I love the dentist that I go to now. I never knew colors were numbers; that’s so interesting. Thank you for sharing!


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