Vicki Wentz: Step away from the ribs!

Apr. 13, 2013 @ 01:18 PM

So, I went to have my teeth cleaned. Longtime readers of this column have already begun to snicker, knowing my complete and total resistance to entering the dentist office for any reason whatsoever, including running in to use their bathroom. (I’d rather find the nearest BP station – at BP they almost never use Novocain.) But it had been six months, and there had been complaints, so a teeth cleaning was imperative.
Naturally, the hygienist found a crack in an old filling. I offered her money and chocolate to keep that information to herself, but she protested that my tooth would become sensitive and would eventually poison my blood and kill me ... whatever. Sure enough, when Dr. Jordan rolled in (that’s Dr. Wayne Jordan, in Durham, whom I absolutely adore – aside from that whole hating-dentists thing – because of his sweet tolerance of my constant state of dental panic) the hygienist/traitor told him about the filling.
I said it must have happened when we had ribs recently, ha ha, no big deal, couldn’t feel anything (which was a teensy fib, since I’d spent the night before eating only soup, with my head tilted to the left). No sweat. Wayne just smiled and listened, then told me very gently that it absolutely had to be fixed ASAP. It was a big filling, with a bit of new cavity in there, too. It would become progressively sensitive if it wasn’t already, and if I didn’t do it now, I’d be looking at a crown down the road, or possibly a root canal – which he knows would involve anesthesia before I left the house. The prospect frightened even him. So, he made me an appointment.
In the interim, I must have invented six or eight possible excuses for canceling that appointment, including but not limited to being involved in the recent rash of skydivers whose parachutes didn’t open. However, the “sensitivity” was increasing to the point where I could only drink tepid tap water, and as for chewing, well, I was considering marketing my condition on TV as a new and vastly low-calorie diet. So, I went to the dentist.
Dr. Jordan always comes in with a smile. At first, I thought this was due to his holding back a chuckle at my paralyzing dental phobia, but I was wrong. He’s just a smiler, that Dr. J.
Then, without exception, I ask him if he has more Novocain than he would ever think necessary for this procedure. And, without exception, he answers yes. And, I say “Promise?” And, he says, “Yes” again. And, I say, “Swear?” And, he says, “Yes” again. (Because I hate the shot, but I’d rather be numb from eyes to knees than have that drill hit a nerve, honey.)
Then, after he rubs some topical anesthetic on the injection site and he’s waiting for it to take effect, he always tells me a joke. Sure, some of them make me blush, but I’m a naive little Catholic girl – who happens to be frozen with fear – so, I’m still very receptive. Then, I usually have one ready to tell him. And, normally, they are long, involved, story-type jokes that will put off the needle, hopefully until the office closes.
(Here’s mine: There were two little brothers, age 6 and 4, watching their mother make pancakes, and arguing about who would get the first one. After a few minutes of the escalating squabble, their mother turned to them and said, “You know what Jesus would say? He’d say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake.’ Why don’t you try that?” The boys were quiet for a moment, and then the older one turned to his little brother and said, “Okay – you be Jesus.”)
He laughed, but then he lowered my chair back and says, “Okay, tiny pinch now.” And, then comes the “tiny pinch,” which, thanks to Dr. Miracle, is as painless as a “tiny pinch” can be. Realistically, I mean, come on, I’ve had children, I can stand a pinch now and then...even though I believe the shot itself lasts for approximately half an hour, causing the occasional whimper, and corresponding reassurance from Wayne that it’s almost over.
After the shot, Dr. J leaves for a while to make sure I’m fully numb – and I insist that it’s a LONG while, like through lunch, you know, just to be sure.
Then, once I’m thoroughly, utterly, entirely numb, it’s a breeze ... sort of. No, I don’t like the sound of the drill or the sucky thing, but hey, it’s Dr. Jordan, so I can kind of relax and practice my meditation: What will I do with the money when I win the lottery …
Then, it’s over. He hugs me and tells me I’m a “champ.” And, I feel like one ... although I can’t tell him that without drooling on him.
Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker. Readers may contact her at, or visit her website,