It wouldn’t matter how long he’d gas me up with Nitrous, I would kick and scream and cry like a man with a head-cold whenever that needle came anywhere near my face.
My childhood dentist was not a patient man. He’d just shrug, put the needle aside, instruct the hygienist to hold me down and go about drilling and filling my not-numb-at-all teeth. And it hurt. A lot.
After a few out-patient surgical procedures wherein they dose you up with whatever delicious IV sedative there is, along with a few blood drive donations, I no longer have a fear of needles.
I do, however, have a terrific fear of dentists.
So you can imagine my displeasure when, last week, I woke up in the middle of the night with a roaring toothache. “It’ll be better in the morning.” I lied to my poor, frightened self. “You’ve made it this long without those devil’s minions they call ‘dentists,’ you’ll be fine.”
Of course, it wasn’t fine in the morning. It was much, much worse. Crap.
I’d heard rumors there were these newfangled dentists out there who called themselves “gentle,” and that these “gentle dentists” were willing to knock you out just to clean your teeth. Now this was an approach to dental hygiene I could get behind.
A quick Google search proved that there were quite a few self-proclaimed gentle dentists and one was only a few miles from my house. According to the search results, he was The Gentle Dentist, himself!
I called to make an appointment, hoping beyond hope they’d be booked for the next month but willing to keep me in pain killers until I could be seen. When the kind receptionist informed me they could see me in AN HOUR, well I kinda fell apart.
Blaming every god and goddess I’d ever known for my incredible misfortune, I prepared myself for the visit by dusting off my bottle of Ativan and saying a few prayers to the very deities I’d just cursed. Seemed reasonable at the time.
When I arrived, ashen with sweaty palms, I signed in and sat down in the waiting room. I told myself to just calm down and looked around for something to read.
That’s when I realized what I’d done.
Everywhere I looked there were well-worn Bibles and pictures of doves with olive branches in their beaks. The loud-speakers sang the songs of Christian rock.
Oh my god, what was this?! Me, a witch. Him, a Jesus dentist.
I’d been duped!
Paranoia swept over me and visions of burning stakes and dungeons filled with torture devices flashed before me even as I could hear the horrific screeching of drilling teeth down the hallway.
I could run. I could just get the fuck up and leave.
“Jennifer, the doctor will see you now.”
I thought about saying something like “Praise the Lord!” or “Bless you.” or just picking up one of the Bibles and asking if I could hold onto it for strength. But even my disingenuousness has its limits.
So I walked down the Green Mile to the exam room where the very sweet hygienist took digital X-rays of my teeth. She explained that, even though it was less profitable, the doctor insisted they use digital to reduce the amount of environmentally-unsound materials.
Then the receptionist came in and asked me to sign an estimate of the day’s services. She held out a laptop with a touch screen which displayed the forms online and handed me an inkless, plastic pen like the kind you use when you pay at the supermarket. “We’re a one-hundred percent paperless office.” She informed cheerily.
As I sat waiting to meet my fate with The Jesus Dentist, I noticed a sign on the wall that read, “It would be an honor to pray for you. Just ask.”
The allure of the offer could not be denied considering my present circumstance.
Finally, He came in. The Jesus Dentist himself. I shook his hand and he was polite enough not to wipe his coat with the sweat I’d transferred in the greeting. I was shaking and cold and just wanted to go home.
But there was the small matter of my throbbing face.
He didn’t look at the X-rays. He didn’t reach for any instruments. He didn’t scold me or lecture me or do any of the things I was familiar with at the dentist’s.
Instead, he sat and talked to me. For like, half an hour. He asked me about my past experience with dentists and listened with compassion. “You were tortured. That was torture.” He spoke with sincere regret.
The Jesus Dentist explained that he would do everything he could to regain my trust in his chosen field. We would go as slowly as I wanted and he would not do anything without my expressed consent. He would knock me out if that’s what I wanted, or I could get a relaxing paraffin hand wax while he worked on me (seriously). They had virtual-reality glasses with which I could watch a movie of my choosing or state-of-the-art headphones with soothing music to drown out the sounds.
He told me their office does not use mercury fillings, stating again that it is harmful to the environment. But we both knew what the real dangers were. (In case you didn’t know, dentists have been known to lose their licenses for speaking out against the health issues of mercury fillings. Look it up.)
When it was time to leave, I asked to use the bathroom. I was taken down a long hall lined with pictures of children in Haiti. The Jesus Dentist spends time there, apparently, volunteering to help the poorest of our world. I also noticed a poster explaining their “Gentle Dental Plan” for the uninsured. (Seriously.)
I left there in much less pain and hopeful that I’d finally found a dentist I could trust.
But I also left there with a sense of shame in how I had originally judged my overtly Christian surroundings. I suppose it’s to be expected, and I didn’t beat myself up about it, but sometimes a Jesus Dentist TRULY is a Jesus Dentist. And thank the gods and goddesses for that!
This man gets it and he serves as an example to us all. His kindness, compassion, generosity and willingness to put the greater good above his own profits is unmatched in my small sphere of experience.
So if you’re in the Shelby Township area of Michigan and want to find a totally kick-ass dentist, I know where to send you. Just ask. Better yet, go ‘like’ his page and tell him I sent you.
Have you ever been too quick to judge? How can we get better at throwing away old information and processing what is actually happening now, in this moment, even when we’re scared shitless? Would love to hear your thoughts!
Photo by Matthew