Teeth and trust


My cavities are spreading like kudzu in Alabama – this we’ve discussed.

Last week, I went back for round 2 with the dentist – a dentist, I might mention, whose last name rhymes with “feral.”  Actually, that’s how you pronounce it, too – “feral.”  Spelled a bit differently, but enough to put me on edge, right?

To her credit, this woman is wonderful, and lauded by D.D.S. folk nationwide.  Highly acclaimed.  Passionate about what she does, eager to always be learning more about her field, pushing back the horizons of dentistry one mouth at a time.  I trust her – maybe not with my life (after all, we just met), but definitely with my teeth.

Still though.  Feral.  Give this woman a drill, and BAM.  Terror, struck in my heart like a rattlesnake bite.

So when I climbed into The Chair last Thursday, I was already quaking in my cowgirl boots.  I hate hate hate a million times hate going to the dentist – especially when it involves cavities.

Be cool, I told myself.  It’s just the dentist.  People go every day.  You will live.

YOU WILL LIVE.  [James Earl Jones said that one.]

But as this woman drilled nothing short of a network of prairie dog tunnels in my molars, I was so stressed out that I couldn’t stop shaking.  My hands, my legs – everything was shaking.  When my teeth started chattering, she had to stop – and as soon as I realized that I was so out of control that the dentist could no longer do her job, I started to cry.


Sneaking from the corners of my eyes, rolling out from behind the awesome dentist sunglasses and into my ears.

The assistant patted my shoulder, and then patted my head, and then began full on stroking my hair.  GAH!  How horrifying is it that I needed PHYSICAL REASSURANCE that I was okay – and it was pathetically obvious??

“Are you okay?” she gently asked.

“Yeah,” I sniffled.  “I’m a grown-ass lady.”

I told the dental assistant that I’m a grown-ass lady.  With tears running down my cheeks.

Then the dentist herself stepped in.  She spoke comforting, reassuring words, and then asked if I thought I could trust them.

It’s hard to trust someone who has the potential to hurt you.

But I think that’s the point, right?  Trust doesn’t mean a thing if the other person is completely safe.

It’s scary.  But it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth doing.



  1. Alison on August 9, 2010 at 7:01 AM

    I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, and you always make me laugh….like full on belly laugh. Just to give you the full picture, I am usually sitting at my desk in my office on the Executive hallway. aka…more quiet than an art gallery.

    Today though you made me laugh and cry…I was just thinking about how stinkin’ hard it is to trust and the last 5 sentences were what I needed to read at this very moment. Thank you!!!

    P.S. I hate going to the dentist too. ;)

  2. The Bug on August 9, 2010 at 7:02 AM

    I couldn’t stop shaking the last time I went to the dentist either. I told myself it was just too darn cold in there – but that was a lie.

    I don’t know if I can stop the physical manifestation of fear just because I intellectually trust the person. I don’t know.

  3. Allison on August 9, 2010 at 7:02 AM

    “Trust doesn’t mean a thing if the other person is completely safe.”

    Wow…I have no words. I just love this.

  4. Amanda on August 9, 2010 at 8:14 AM

    I loved this. Very applicable to my life at present. Thanks for sharing a bit of your life with us. –Amanda

  5. Greta Weisman on August 9, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    Thanks AP. You are Chicken Soup for my 26-year-old soul.

  6. Shannon (sister of the other Annie) on August 9, 2010 at 11:17 AM

    Grown-ass woman, you are not alone. The last time I went to the dentist (seven fillings and a root canal for the record) they had to SEDATE me, I was freaking out so bad.

  7. Julianne on August 9, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you said “grown-ass lady” to the dentist. What??
    Doesn’t Dan do sedation dentistry?
    I used to hate going to the dentist, too. Not because of the pain, but because of the shame. (I am SO not a flosser). But then I decided I would think of it as a spa treatment–I am paying someone to scrape my teeth. I know, weird, but it worked for me.
    Anyway, grown-ass lady, I hope your day gets better.

  8. Pamela on August 9, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    I would have demanded some laughing gas if I were you.

    On the bright side (if there is one), at least you got yours done all at once. I had 6 cavities recently (I don’t want to discuss how embarrassed that makes me feel), and they only did 2 at once. Which, for the record, is 6 different injections of numbing medicine. On my bright side, at least I didn’t pass out at any injection, which I did in high school,when I came to in a blanket and an oxygen mask…

    You are not alone.

  9. Terry McNichols on August 9, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    Laughing gas is the only way I’ve survived. I had some bad dental experiences as a kid and love that laughing gas. If your dentist doesn’t offer it, find one who does!!! And you get to make up crazy stories in your head while you’re sitting there in the chair….

  10. Dentist in Beverly Hills on August 9, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    That is that only thing that will get me through the painful prodcedure.

  11. dn on August 9, 2010 at 9:05 PM

    I echo the above gas-supporting comments. In addition to easing your anxiety and pain, it makes the time fly by.

  12. Eric on August 10, 2010 at 12:09 AM

    I almost take offense to the kudzo statement! But we do have a lot. I’ll mail you some if you want.

    Great ending by the way!

  13. Juliette on August 10, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    i want to give you a giant hug. you are just SO good at this. you know it? writing, i mean. you’re freaking compelling. If i owned a magazine, I’d pay you gobs of money to put blurbs like this in it, once a month.

    i am so epically, emphatically sorry for your dental drama. (i’m right there with you on the fear of teeth being touched) please let them give you the gas!!!

  14. wrecklessgirl on August 12, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    i cried in the dentist chair when they cut a tooth into quarters and pulled out each piece while i was so-not-numb. cried. and cried. and cried.

    also, if there’s a better metaphor for me to trust a man in a loving relationship, it’s experience and exchange you’ve just described, accompanied by (happy) tears and kind words–i would hope. okay, i know the metaphor breaks down in the dissection, but still. you followin me?

  15. Danielly Nobile on August 23, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    I think you might dislike the dentist as I as I do.

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