Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Phobia Lane

My Phobia:

I think I mentioned yesterday I’d had some toothy dilemmas in the past few days. To be very honest, I’m a denta-phobic. But I come by it honestly.

When I was a little kid (like five or six) my jaw teeth abscessed. All of them.

According to my mom, that wasn’t my fault. It was hers for not taking her calcium because it made her sick when she was preggers with me. (I like that reason.)

She took me to a dentist in a nearby Small Town World, and without telling her what he was going to do, the dentist pulled two of my teeth. The man apparently hadn’t learned yet that you shouldn’t make a mama mad.

Naturally, Mom took me to a children’s specialist.

Mistake #1.  (I think this guy was a child’s specialist because he was bigger than we were.)

This guy told her he was going to have to pull the rest of my jaw teeth. And he told her IN FRONT OF ME!

Mistake #2.

But those two mistakes weren’t what made me a denta-phobic. It was because this New Dentist would give me the shot to deaden doomed teeth, then pull them BEFORE the shot took effect. I can tell you in two words how that felt.


After my first trip to visit New Dentist, I did not want to go back. Ever! I didn’t care how bad my teeth hurt.

Then one day Sister Debbie and I were playing on the front porch and she said she was going to go to the farm with Granddad Ray.

Now I loved going to the farm! Cousins lived there. Sparky lived there. And Granddad’s garden (full of watermelons) was there.

“I want to go,” I told her.

“You can’t,” she answered me. “You have to go get your toofus pulled.”

My stomach hit the concrete steps. Get my toofus–I mean tooth–pulled? While Sister Debbie got to go to the farm? Noooooo!

My parent’s plan to take me to have two teeth extracted as a surprise failed. (IOW–Sister Debbie spilled the beans.)

But it wasn’t all bad. The last two tooth-pulling visits, my daddy took me. Only me. No one else to share his attention. (As one of six kiddos, that sparkles in my memory. You know?)

And after the excruciating experience of having my non-deadened teeth pulled, we got to eat in my favorite place–Danner’s Cafeteria.

Naturally, I got 4F–fried fish and French fries. My faves! And for dessert, I probably got watermelon. Or Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.

But I couldn’t eat my fish because my gums, torn open by the extractions, hurt too much.

Daddy watched me order and he didn’t say a word, but he oh, so wisely ordered baked halibut. And when I couldn’t chew mine, we traded.

I’m still amazed at how very smart my dad was for such a young guy. (About 26 at the time.)

After lunch, Dad took me to see a movie.

We did the Daddy-Daughter thing for the last two pairs of extractions, so we saw two movies. One was Raintree County. I didn’t understand most of it, but it had Liz Taylor in it, and Daddy loved watching her, so I enjoyed every moment of it.

I’m not sure what the other flick was, but I think it was High Noon or something like it. Apparently there were no John Wayne movies out right then or we would have gone to see him.

The same dentist filled a couple of my teeth, and no, he didn’t use Novocain. He said the cavities were so small, I’d never feel him drilling.

I have news for him. I felt it!

I have to feel a little sorry for this dentist. Before my cousin Joanie told her mom how mean he was (very!) and we all quit going to him, he had a few unpleasant experiences with me.

I bit him (accidentally, of course. He had fat fingers.) threw up on him and I passed out. I have a feeling Joanie did worse. (As the only girl and youngest of four kids, she was always good at pay back.)

Dental Dude: (aka–phobia fixer)

Happily, Dental Dude (my dentist now) is nothing like that dentist was.

He’s interested in everything and asks lots of questions. (The only problem is when he has both hands in my mouth, it’s  a little hard to answer.)

And he works very hard not to hurt me. VERY. HARD. (I keep hoping he’s afraid of me, but I haven’t noticed any signs of it.)

DD is interesting. Even though he hurt both of his knees a few years ago (a great excuse to quit exercising in anyone’s book) he enters triathlons anytime there’s one close. And he trains all the time.

He runs miles and miles. And bikes miles and miles. And he swims miles and miles. IN! OUR! LAKE!

Our Small Town World Lake is formed from damming the Arkansas and Cimarron Rivers, and the Cimarron carries a ton of dirt it picked up on the way to our world, so this isn’t a clear lake by any means. But he likes to swim in it because the pool in his neighborhood is too small to get much swimming done.

He mentioned his nose itches for a day or two after he swims. (His helper suggested he wear a nose plug to stop that from happening. I would have recommended a different lake.)

Last week:

When he couldn’t glue my tooth back together (still wondering WHY, but I have a feeling it has to do with boring stuff that would make my brain go numb) he had to pull that piece.

I flashed right back and became six-year-old Susan. “Noooo!”

But it hurt too much to leave broken like that. I was determined he was going to make it NUMB before he pulled it out.

“It’s like a baby tooth,” he told me. “Just hanging there, ready to come out.”

“I cried when they pulled my baby teeth.” I answered grimly. “Give that numbing stuff time to work before you yank on it.”

“This numbing stuff is instantaneous.” He’s so patient with me. Nice guy. “It doesn’t need time.”

“But I can still feel my tooth.”

After a couple of more shots, he easily pulled it.

Did I feel silly for making such a fuss?

Nope. I’m entitled to the fuss.

How about y’all? Any of you guys have denta-phobias?

Care to share?