Today marked my last visit to my pediatric dentist.
I have seen this guy since I was two. For the first eight years, I was petrified. For the last ten, I rested in ease with the advances in detistry-related technology. Every year I saw the same nurses, all friendly, even when they had to restrain me when doing fluoride treatments the old-fashioned way. My dentist's hair got whiter and his gut moved in and out like some slow motion slingshot, vibrating with time. His partner's hair grew more copious and longer. I grew up and out and in, new glasses, bangs, bad clothes, less fears, and the hated permanent retainer.
In the beginning, there was a smaller office in an old office building. The motif was an early 70's brown. The wallpaper had hills and mountains on it that reminded me of shots from "Gorillas In The Midst", all in various shades of brown. There was a Snoopy theme, with a red and yellow border running around the top of the walls. The chairs were old dentist's chairs, isolated, whose sight brought to mind interogation seats or a mad scientist's lab. Snoopy's bright colors clashed with the earthy tones, but no one cared, especially during the torture.
Back in the day, fluoride treatments were less than no fun at all. They involved braided cords of cotton, large pieces of metal and this nasty lemon flavored liquid. Whther it was sealant or fluoride I don't remember. First they would line the inside of both the upper and lower teeh with cotton, which immediately dried up your mouth. Next, they put two pieces of crescent-shaped metal around the cotton. The metal tasted metallic in a bad way and there was not enough room, I was convinced, for all of this in my mouth. After saturating the cotton with the vile liquid, I had to sit there for three minutes to let it set. You try telling a four year old to breath through her nose during this. I dare you.
Taking x-rays was another unpleasant expeience involving pieces of hard plastic put behind your teeth while a long-necked mechanical monster breathed heavily in your ear until the nurse returned. But when it was over you were rewarded with stickers, a new toothbrush, small toys, and a good report. I remember overhearing the dentist tell a boy my age why he needed to stop sucking his thumb. The kid's front teeth were already prominently sticking out and he couldn't give a damn who told him what to do. The dentist turned to leave and that thumb immediately returned to it's resting place.
Then there was The Wolfman. The Wolfman was my dentist's partner. He had a bushy beard varying between dark brown, black, silver, and white, bushy eyebrows, a lot of hair, and a face shaped like you'd suppose the Wolfman's face would have been shaped. Nevermind that he had a kind glint in his eye. This guy was equally or more terrifying than the fluoride treaments. He'd walk around with purpose, glancing about to see what needed to be done. A few years, when my dentist was too busy to check me out at the end, he'd fill in and I'd be a hairsbreadth away from the fangs and the beard.
Then the practice moved to a new office building with a child-friendly motif (reefs and sea life, complete with two saltwater tanks), bright colors, more space, friendly lights, and natural lights. I spent my time in the waiting room watching the moray eel slowly open his toothless maw and gracefully move about the tank, his stripes creating a moving illusion. The fluoride treaments were kinder on us. Now they involve a styrofoam piece filled with foam flouride in mint, bubblegum, cherry, or fruit punch flavor. X-rays were quicker and the area was more relaxing. The Wolfman shed his fears and became an interesting guy who went on safaris and learned tai chi and was overall and really neat and nice guy. The other patients got smaller and smaller and I felt like Gulliver in Lilliput.
My career ended with a splendid report stating that I had no cavities, as every other year, my teeth looked great, and my molars were coming in in fine form. With one backwards glance at the eel, I walked out, thrown into the flavorless world of adult dentistry.