Reflections: Beware the Dentist

George Rowe


I always enjoy getting a haircut and usually enjoy a trip to the dentist. Today’s dental visit was difficult but hilarious.

I arrived about fifteen minutes prior to my scheduled appointment, as there is always the possibilities of getting in a little early. I was about five minutes into a sports fishing magazine when I suddenly got ushered into the dental office. Still clinging to my magazine, the dental assistant asked various questions about the magazine and what if anything caught my attention. I explained to her that I was interested in the article on fly fishing and that I was also tying trout flies for more than thirty years. She got all excited about my hobby and suddenly there were a multitude of questions fired in my direction about fly tying. I tried to answer each question in great detail and with a lot of clarity. I wanted my answers to be so picturesque that she would actually visualize the fly I was describing.

“The dentist will be with you in a few minutes,” she said, “but I must first do a little prep work.” I was almost completely horizontal in the dentist chair but still holding my magazine with the intention of finishing my article. This lovely dental assistant is very sweet and has great intentions to help me relax and prepare for any necessary dental work. My mouth is already filled with dental freezing and I’m wondering if the left side of my face is still in place, I certainly can’t feel it.

With beautiful soft blue eyes and with her face about twelve inches from mine she spoke very softly as if not wanting to be heard by another person on the planet, “Please continue to read your magazine and just pretend I’m not here.” Really? My mouth is frozen and this beautiful assistant is attaching a bib under my chin and there is no way I can lift my arms to continue my reading. She then secures a piece of rubber to my upper and lower jaw and underneath the rubber she is trying to attach a retainer on the right side of my mouth to separate upper and lower teeth.

“I’m sorry. Does it hurt? Are you comfortable? Is the freezing already working?” With her many questions and her ongoing prep for the dentist she continues to ask detailed questions about fly tying and fly fishing and, believe it or not, she is expecting me to give very clear and detailed answers. For all intents and purposes I am completely immobilized. I could not speak. I can hardly breathe. My ability to swallow was much limited and this very sweet young dental assistant wanted to know the colours of the Doc Spratley, the step-by-step detailed process in tying it and whether it was fished better in the morning, mid-day or late evening. How could this sweet little thing expect me to give a coherent answer when I am struggling to get air into my lungs? Where is the dentist? Lord have mercy!

The dentist finally came with an air of warmth and friendliness. “Good day George!” I made no response because I couldn’t.

“Did you have a great trip from Tumbler Ridge?” Still no response.

“…and what can I do for you today?” Wow! Does he think we’re on a debating team or what? At this point I was not only in dire straits to respond but I wanted to scream, “You are the dentist and I am the patient. If you don’t know why I’m prepped with a bib under my chin, a piece of rubber, a retainer and three needles already inserted into my tender gums, then maybe I should be seeking a second opinion.” I tried to smile but that was a useless effort because even the corners of my mouth were immobilized. It is a wise thing not to always verbalize your thoughts for fear of repercussions that may be out of your control because after all the dentist held in his hand the power of the needle—one more injection and I could be out cold.

The dentist worked very methodically with great care that the patient would not have to endure unnecessary pain. Yet the greatest pain was the shutting down of natural body functions like not being able to swallow, breathe properly, cough or carry on a conversation. The day that George Rowe cannot carry on a conversation is the day my wife calls for a great party to celebrate—thank God she was not at the dental clinic on that day.

I am now more relaxed as I listen to the sound of drills, the suction noise of a small pump, the smell of bone as teeth fragments are quickly retrieved by the quick action of the dental assistant. I listen to the bantering between the dentist and his assistant and suddenly the question. “George, my assistant tells me you are a fly fisherman and you tie your own trout flies. What got you into fly fishing and tying your own trout flies?”

I can’t respond. You really don’t mind when your dentist asks a question that requires a yes or a no answer. If you can’t verbalize your answer you can still move your head ever so slightly in the forward direction to answer yes or slightly to the right and left to indicate no. There is no way in fisherman’s heaven I can give an answer to his thought provoking questions and for me not having the ability to speak is like over-inflating a balloon to the point of an explosion. Great questions but no answers.

With the dental work nearing completion I was feeling a strong desire to accommodate a normal body function that would bring me great relief. I wanted to pee real bad. I needed to gooooooo. This is so embarrassing! I can’t verbalize my need to go and any kind of body language to indicate my need for relief would have been an act of perversion. The RCMP would have been contacted and with all the instrumentation already in my mouth, I would have been further restrained with handcuffs.

So I used mental strategy to help remove the painful desire for relief. In my mind I visualized tying one of my favorite flies. My visualization started with placing a naked hook in the fly vise and followed it through to completion. Removing the dressed fly from the vise I said to myself, “Yes! A job well done.” I then added the final touch with clear head cement to keep the whole body from falling apart. Having the fly completed I then heard the dentist say, “All finished George. The freezing will last for about two hours but you will be fine. Have a great day.”

I got out of that chair so fast and headed to the washroom with such speed I’m sure the assistant thought I was trying to escape from paying the bill—she was pleased when I turned toward the washroom. My greatest fear was that the washroom was already occupied but by golly the door was wide open. I zipped down so fast I forgot to close the door and with the flow now in the torrential stage I stood there like an idiot hoping that all other patients were still in dental chairs. I finished (and what a relief), flushed, washed my hands and quickly approached the receptionist relieved and embarrassed. I have no idea what she saw or what she heard. But with a very slight smile she said, “Now Mr. Rowe, that wasn’t so bad was it.” I’m not sure if she meant the relieving of myself as I stood with my back to the open door or the slight swelling on the left side of my face. The dentist and his lovely assistant came out to the desk to shake my hand, after I had washed it, and wished me the best. I simply said, “You all have a great day and remember that the sun is always shining!”