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November 29, 2006


How extraordinary. I've never had an experience with a dentist anywhere close to this.

Dentistry is a little more intimate than other medical experiences, I think. It takes longer, and medical doctors hold you at arm's length even as they're poking at sensitive places. But your dentist must sidle up close, lean over and peer in. I try to make late-morning appointments, to catch them before they start running late, but I tend to catch mine just before lunch and his stomach is often rumbling. "It's a dentist thing," I once told him; who else is so close to your ears?

You have an extraordinary memory for dialogue, if you can suffer through waiting rooms, dental procetures, and public transit and still get down something close.

Now -- do your teeth feel sharp?

Wow, Beth. To my astonishment, this had the tears running down my cheeks, even more than any of your other wonderful stories about your family relationships. The thought of experiencing a warm connection with one's dentist, and in particular your suggestion that the sense of such a warm connection makes pain easier to bear, just broke me up.

I had awful experiences with dentists as a kid: fainting and screaming and lots of blood and being shouted at by both the dentist and my mother, was phobic for years and didn't go.

I do now, and tolerate it, but always with distress and anxiety and often with unsuppressable tears, much more of fear than pain. Recent dentists have been perfectly pleasant. I remember cracking up once when one of them told me he'd broken his wife's front tooth the previous day, playing badminton, and their friends were cruelly finding it hilarious. And then there was the Chinese dentist who shook my hand and beamed and said, 'so pleased to meet you, my name is Fang'. But oh, to have a dentist like yours... this is a treasure you must cherish and hold on to.

Hope your teeth are feeling okay today.

I hated the dentist for years, and my childhood dentist hated me because I couldn't sit still. He begged my mother to put me on valium. Then, when I first came here to the US, one drove me away from getting the teeth checked for many years when he insisted that I ought to get my chipped front tooth capped. I refused, over and over, and he said, "I guarantee you'll be back here within two years begging for a cap." Of course I never went back, and I have never asked for a cap. My current dentist has never even asked me. We talk about writing, books, teaching and kids. She suggested a special new toothpaste for my mother when she heard she was going through chemo for cancer. And -- this is the weird part -- my daughter has loved the dentist since she first went at the age of three. She'll ask. "Isn't it time for my teeth to be cleaned?"! OK, that's weird, but it means my dentist must be wonderful. :-)

This was a great post. Riveting.


As my grandmother would say, Mercy Guide Us.

This is extraordinary, Beth. Just *how* long have you known this dentist??

Everything about this guy sounds wonderful EXCEPT his confiding
his need to pee. Silly and squeamish, I know, but I really don't need to
know where those fingers have just been

Thanks, all. My teeth feel better but not great, which is as expected.

I've "known" him about two years and we've had several conversations, but this was the first time he had done extensive work on my teeth. He did a lot of surgery for J., and I started going to his practice after that.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.