If you’re gonna chew on a blade of grass or smile for the camera, it pays to have a good set of chompers. Being that teeth are such an integral part of your face, it also pays to invest in a good working relationship with a dentist. As the saying goes; “Dentistry is not expensive, neglect is.”
There are certain professionals in my life (truck mechanic, cattle hauler, doctor, lawyer, accountant, stockbroker and hair stylist) that I place an inordinate amount of trust in and commitment to. Once found, they attain my loyalty over a long time or until they retire, as my ole dentist from Waterville, Dr. Charles Guerra, DDS did.
I believe in my 50 odd years I’ve only seen perhaps, 3 family dentists, which were endorsed by my parents. I’m guessing when they found a good one they were bitten. My earliest recollections of sitting in the dentist’s chair adjacent to the spitting-cup were of a graying or balding man with a gentle mannerism and fragrance.
Apparently my brother and I responded well to the father stature until I vividly remember him dropping my tooth on the floor after a wisdom tooth extraction from uncontrollably shaking. Time for a new dentist!
I gotta say, my parents got off pretty cheap when it came to the dentist but probably made up for it with the grocery bill to feed a hard-working farm boy as I drank milk by the gallons. The late Dr. Weston A. Price and the dairy industry would be proud as this connoisseur of cream didn’t have a cavity until forty. No doubt I have good teeth genes too.
With such a gift, you would think I would take care of the ivory whites. At some point in my life between insurance policies, dairying, fence-building and quarry working, everything seemed more important than keeping an appointment with Dr. Guerra even at the begging of my wife. I’d use this naïve justification, “I don’t have the time or my teeth are fine cause I have no pain.” Subliminally, I think I was like most people, scared of the dentist finding something and causing me pain. I had forgotten the old adage: “Prevention is the best medicine.”
They say inspiration and change can come in many forms. In my case, it was the unsettling “CRACK” sound of a tooth after biting down on a chicken wing. I believe it had been 6 years since I had sat in the 70’s dentist chair surrounded by the brownish motif of X-ray and belt-driven drilling equipment overlooking the familiar view of the next door’s funeral parlor. The doc was always good with the fishing and hunting stories as he waited for the novocaine to take hold.
It was an epic extraction of a 47 year old rooted tooth which required vise-grip like forceps and a steady hand to pry the incisor to freedom and land in the cup with a thud. Seeing the sweat on his brow, it might have been the day he decided it was time to retire to peaceful pastures. Because I had this hole, I had to go back and receive periodic care which helped me get in the habit of prevention, until I got the word he was closing up shop.
Like a loyal friend, Doctor Guerra wanted to leave my wife and I in capable hands so he suggested Reaves Dental Practice in New Hartford, N.Y. where their slogan, “Our family cares for your family” resonated with me. When I saw the Reaves had hired Yvonne, our trusted dental assistant of 30 years, we knew it was the right place for us.
I felt some transitional ease when I noticed Doctors Glenn and Justin had donned the office with hand-made Adirondack chairs, an old buck saw over the fireplace mantel, fishing pictures and birdfeeders outside the window from the dentist chairs. Goodbye funeral home!
My first experience was a swift triage of an infected pulp tissue chamber before I sailed the Carribbean in March. The congenial Dr. Glenn and his capable dental hygienist, Kelly, took amazing digital x-rays, vibrated my gums so I didn’t feel the needle, prepared the battle plan and in a New York minute, plucked out the whole nerve in one shot and filled it with putty. “Wow that rarely happens, said Mr. Smiles. And by the way, you’ll need a root canal when you get back.” As Kelly took a picture of the marvel so I could show my Facebook friends, I knew this would be a colorful relationship.
Because I was a new patient, they needed to do a thorough dental exam to chart a course to more smiles and no dentures. Dental professionals, Pamme and Karin, took more pictures of my mouth than at a wedding. Pamme screened me for oral cancer, scoped my gums while dictating tooth numbers into the computer with problems and educated me on stopping gingivitis. The price for not investing in years of maintenance and getting me back on track——three grand. . .
Last week, Dr. Glenn, Kelly and I got together for a little root canal therapy (the most feared adult procedure going I’m told). This time I was equipped with safety glasses, plenty of numbing and a rubber dam placed in my mouth to catch debris. A shot of whiskey would have been nice too. Witnessing the drill measuring, tasting the cleaning fluid, losing my saliva facilities and hearing the phrase, “not long enough” was pretty unnerving.
After an hour and a half, the procedure came to a close because they needed longer drills and more patience to clean out my longer than average canals. I frankly had enough too. As I got home to feed the heifers, I kept thinking how much pain I could endure. Miraculously, there was none. The good Dentist called me that evening to see how I was doing (great customer service) and remarked, “No one ever talks about a good root canal”. I have to admit I had a good one and told him I would convey his message.
I’m ready to declare the dentist offices of today with their sophisticated equipment and new procedures as a place to visit for a brighter future. “Life is short, smile while you have teeth.”