Fear of the Dentist

It was May 14th, 2006, and I was walking to the dentist with my mom. I had been to the dentist a few times before, and I was starting to get used to it. It was getting to the point where I was looking forward to each visit because of how clean my teeth would feel afterwards, but it all changed on that day. When we got to the office, I jumped up on the chair and held my mouth open for the dentist.

After a few minutes of poking and prodding my teeth and gums, he said “Hmm, this doesn’t look right...” which is something you never want to hear from someone who is looking at your mouth. He asked me to stay in the chair, and he went to go talk to my mom for a bit. However, because of six year olds’ natural tendencies to run around and not do what adults tell them to, I got up and wandered over to the waiting room door. That was when I heard the exact six words I didn’t want to hear, “We could just pull the tooth,” come out of the dentist’s mouth. My eyes instantly widened, and I had to hold back a yelp so that they wouldn’t find out that I was listening. I went back to the chair, my eyes as wide as frisbees. When the dentist finally came back in I put on the best poker face that I had ever done. I felt a sense of dread as he walked up to the chair. I knew what was about to happen.

He said “Sorry about that, I hope you didn’t get too bored.” I could only squeak out a tiny “Please don’t pull out my tooth.” “Don’t worry,” he said, nothing more. He didn’t say if he would or wouldn’t, which only made me even more scared. He laid me back in the chair and went to work. It was the same old stuff at first. Scraping, rinsing, and flossing. I thought that maybe he wouldn’t pull my tooth after all. Maybe I would just be able to go home and still be able to chew on that side of my mouth, but I was wrong.

Before I knew it, I looked over to see him pull out literally a pair of pliers. No special tool or anything, just some plain old pliers. I thought I saw some rust on the tip, but it could have been my imagination. I instantly started screaming and thrashing, trying to escape the unbearable pain that I knew was coming. I knew that I was just delaying the inevitable, but I kept struggling on the off chance that he would give up, leaving me free to live my life with my molars intact, but I wasn’t that lucky. A dentist from the next room over came in to see what all the racket was, then she left and came back with a gurney, complete with medieval style straps. If you have ever seen the movie Saw, then you know what it looked like from my eyes. After much more struggling, kicking, and screaming, it was finally over. I felt around my mouth with my tongue, and noticed a huge, gaping hole in the side of my gums. I felt betrayed. The “nice dentist man” wasn’t as nice as I had thought.

From then on, I never wanted to go to the dentist. Every six months I would pretend to get a very violent case of the flu, which would last from when I found out about the appointment to the second it was too late for me to go. It only worked for the first few times before my mom started to catch on to the act. One day she woke me up by saying “Hey, Colin, we’re going to the store to get ice cream!” I jumped up, got dressed, and sprinted outside to the car. On the way there, I noticed that we passed the store that we usually went to. I thought there was a chance that I’d been deceived, but it was two months earlier than usual, and we weren’t going to where the dentist was before. My mind started racing. My mom looked over and saw my worried look, and she said “Oh, yeah, we’re going to a different store. This one has better ice cream.” “Ok,” I said, but in the back of my mind I didn’t completely trust her. If the dentist tried to dupe me into giving up a tooth, then could my mom do the same thing? That was when we pulled into a parking lot, and I saw the word “Dentist” written in huge, chrome letters on the building across the street. Immediately I tried to run, but she anticipated this, and she picked me up, threw me over her shoulder, and started walking towards the office. “Please don’t make me go to the dentist!” I yelled. She said “It’s for your own good, Colin, you’ll understand when you’re older.” The next half hour was filled with apprehension and fear that something unexpected would happen. I never truly got used to going to the dentist until a few years ago, which is when I eventually decided that it wasn’t worth worrying about, and figured that it would go faster if I didn’t struggle.

For a long time after that I thought that being scared of the dentist was an uncommon fear. Even after overcoming it, I still felt that it was unusual. I wondered if it was completely unreasonable, and that I was just being a wimp. Then, this year in class, we read The Things They Carried, which contained a chapter called “The Dentist,” where a character, Lieutenant Curt Lemon, has to overcome his fear of the dentist, even requesting that one of his teeth be pulled out in order to prove to his squad-mates that he wasn’t a coward. It first surprised me that this fear was being brought up in literature, and second it surprised me that a grown man, a soldier, would share this fear that I had only had in childhood. This inspired me to research a fear of going to the dentist, and I found that it was, in fact, a very common fear. I also found that, instead of being referred to as a phobia, which is what I assumed it was, it was actually more similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This made sense, as having a tooth pulled out by the dentist at six years old unexpectedly was a pretty traumatic event. After finding this out, I felt relieved. At that point I knew that I was normal, and I could feel secure with the fact that I was scared of the dentist. Even further than that, I could feel proud of myself, knowing that I had overcome a fear that is crippling to some people.

Comments (4)

Chhievling Seng (Student 2017)
Chhievling Seng
  • I really like how you made it or maybe didn't but there is a very nice humor to it. I never knew you were scared of the dentist in that way.
  • The writing strategy was well, it was simple, and really grabs the reader.
  • The video made the personal part completed.
Rifah Islam (Student 2017)
Rifah Islam

Colin this was actually so funny. I loved how this really felt like Colin Pierce's personal essay. It was like you were telling me your story and I was simply listening. I like how you added some dialogue between you and your mom and how she said she said she would take you to the ice cream shop (aka dentist). I think your video was also really funny with easy to follow pictures. It really added to your story.

Yasmeen Collins (Student 2017)
Yasmeen Collins

1.) I learned that you had to overcome the fear of the dentist. 2.) I liked when you made the connection to the book. It was directly related and you used some good language. 3.) The video added some good pictures to help you follow the story.

Kara Heenan (Student 2017)
Kara Heenan
  1. I learned about Colin's fear of the dentist and how he overcame it.
  2. I liked his use of a lot of description and dialogue, really puts you into that moment.
  3. It added a voice to the words, it felt like listening to an audio book. The pictures matched the emotions, it was funny.