An Alphabet Of Things I Don’t Like: D


Ever since I was first taken to a dentist as a child, the words ‘Open Wide’ have sent a chill down my spine. (Not a photo of me…)

In the early 1960s, the interior of the dental surgery looked like an execution chamber in an American prison.

Just look at that chamber of horrors! The Spanish Inquisition couldn’t do better! The drill is operated on a cable, and whirred so slowly as they drilled into your tooth, it made your jawbone ache. Most dentists were elderly men back then, and had a stern ‘chairside manner’ that did not involve putting their patients at ease.

It didn’t help that dental treatment was then free on the NHS, so we were supposed to be grateful for being tortured without anaesthetic. A filling was supposed to be tolerated without recourse to pain relief then. Not that I would have wanted the injection anyway. The glass syringes had reusable needles that looked as long as arrows.

And woe betide you needed to be put to sleep for treatment, as that involved ‘gas’, delivered through a big rubber mask strapped over your face. Even when you thought the worst was over, they would spray jets of freezing water onto your teeth that made your toes curl. Then you had to ‘Rinse!’ That meant drinking a glass of pink fluid that tasted like medicine, swirling it around in your mouth, and spitting into a shallow dish with a plughole at the bottom.

Dental health wasn’t that good then, to be honest. We ate too many sugary and starchy foods, and generally only brushed our teeth once a day. Added to that, my dad favoured abrasive ‘tooth-powder’ over toothpaste, and we were ignorant of the fact that it was damaging the enamel on our teeth.

Fast forward fifty years, and my current dentist has premises that look more like a nice hotel room with a designer armchair.

It helps that I have to pay now. I can still get a portion of free treatment on the NHS if I claim it, but I don’t bother. The staff treat me like a ‘customer’, and the friendly young Spanish dentist sits chatting before picking up any implements. He doesn’t even say “Open wide” any more.

But I still hate it.

62 thoughts on “An Alphabet Of Things I Don’t Like: D

  1. I had terrible experiences as a kid also, including that black rubber gas mask and multiple teeth extractions. For no reason that I can understand, I now love seeing the dentist. I think it is because he is warm, thoughtful and good. Also he has a tv I get to watch as he works!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I still have a vivid memory of having the gas to have two teeth pulled when I was about 9 years old, not a happy memory and it still haunts me whenever I have to visit. Still at least routine stuff is free in Poland so I don’t feel any pain in my wallet, which can be far worse than the physical for a Yorkshireman πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is only free here for certain categories of benefit recipients, children, and pregnant women. Everyone else has to pay something, so we just went private, as it isn’t that much more to pay.
      Cheers, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I used to feel this way about dentists as well, Pete, but times have changed. When I used to bring my son to the dentist, he looked forward to it because the dentist had these incredible toys for the children to play with.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, my #1 worst thing is going to the dentist! And unfortunately the older I get the longer are the appointments. I had a temporary root canal in March, the second appointment then put on hold till May because of the pandemic. The only good thing was they finally found a magic pill to get me through it.

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  5. I’m pretty sure the dentist phobia for most of us started in childhood with school dentists. I’ve hated going to the dentists ever since though now have a really good dentist and am less terrified. And after having survived the ordeal of a bronchoscopy, the dentist seems much less scary.

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  6. I had a lovely dentist when I lived in Doncaster – one reason why I hate moving is finding a good dentist, hairdresser and car mechanic – I am fortunate that most work now involves removing old fillings and replacing them, though I have recently broken off a piece off tooth. No NHS dentists around here so I guess I am going to have to go private again, which is fine for a check up / hygienist but any other work soon adds up. Oh, and I am one of those people who find the injection more painful than going without. But I agree, not a place I am in a hurry to visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will tolerate the injection, rather than a filling with no anaesthetic. But even when it is just a check-up, being in the waiting room still makes me feel uneasy.
      Best wishes, Pete. x


  7. My first memory of a visit to a dentist was in the 1950s when I had to have several baby teeth extracted as they had roots that were more like permanent teeth. The dentist put me under and I remember waking up and feeling woozy. I saw the dentist the day before yesterday for a routine cleaning and now hat to see a specialist to have a root canal. Despite the pain and suffering, which is caused largely by my habits, dentists are generally nice people I would rather see under social rather than professional circumstances. Warmest regards, Thep

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I know a lot of people have this particular phobia, Pete. I was lucky, compared to your experience, that I went to my parents’ dentist as a child, and he was the epitome of consideration & care, so I’ve never feared going to the dentist ever since. The only time I’ve ever been apprehensive is latterly when I needed a tooth extracted: not the first time, but I had allowed the fear to build up in my mind to a point where I didn’t think I could face it [I’d already put it off as long as possible]. My GP deemed my fear sufficient to prescribe me a couple [literally, and no more!] of happy pills to see me through the ordeal, but in the end, knowing I had them meant I could go through with it without a safety net. Otherwise, fillings [with anaesthetic, obvs] no problem at all. Cheers, Jon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You were lucky to have that good childhood experience, Jon. Most of the others I know who are like me were so terrified as children, the phobia lasted into old age.
      Best wishes, Pete.


    1. Julie used to have sedation at a dentist in Norwich city centre. It meant I always had to go with her of course, to drive her home. But when we found the new clinic locally, they were so reassuring, she copes with a local now. When you find a good one, I can understand you sticking with them, Stevie.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. An anecdote.:

    Back when I lived in Kansas City, my (first) wife (who was European Spanish) and I went to a dentist’s office on the Country Club Plaza. My wife was horrified by the rusty collection the dentist had mounted on the waiting room wall. She thought they were braces! I had to reassure her. “That’s barbed wire.” As for the dentist, who was rather old, he liked to sing (in a soft voice) throughout the procedure.

    Dentists: Take no o’fence, please.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I do so agree. I once had an emergency filling with my mother’s dentist and when I told him I was scared of injections he said ” OK, we’ll do it without!” It was the most frightening time of my life and I’ve been a nervous wreck ever since ( apart from once, when I had a dentist who was so calm and handsome that I forgot to be scared) Since then we have had women dentists who do recognise fear and do their best to make the experience bearable.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I can smell that rubber mask now. I had no fillings, but had to have 12 first and second teeth out as part of the programme for getting my teeth straightened. Sometimes it was an injection – having cocaine. The first time I had gas I walked into his room and saw a huge tank with a skull and crossbones on it. At least a doctor had to be present if you were having a general anaesthetic.

    Liked by 1 person

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