Though the world we live in is filled with flaws, in at least one arena we have managed to improve our lot.
I was talking with a lady not long ago who told me she remembered her very first trip to the dentist. It was 1936, and she had a terrible toothache, which was made worse each morning and evening when she had to milk by hand the family’s three cows.
“Something about sitting on that stool and leaning to do the milking just made my whole head throb with pain,” she told me.
Her father saved up some money and finally said he could take her in to town to have the tooth “looked at.” When the town’s only dentist finally dashed in to the room, she said, he harshly told her to sit still. As he poked in her mouth, she began crying. He called for an assistant to come in and hold her still. Not one bit of anesthesia was used.
I will spare you the details, but the whole experience left such a searing impression on that young girl, now 80 years old, that she can recall everything about it to this day — the scents, the sights, the fear and the pain. It would have taken a certain type of constitution to work in the dental field back in that day.
Good ol’ days? Not! This prompted us to talk about the days of the Wild West, a name earned not by happy gun-slinging guys looking out for one another, but by tough old cobs who had what was required to survive — a whole lot of pluck and not an ounce of mercy.
When they needed dental care, the closest town’s barber and a hearty shot of whiskey was often where they turned for help.
When I see clips of old westerns, the cowboys looking handsome with their pearly white smiles, I often have wondered what the non-Hollywood version really looked like. Imagine being out on the dusty plains for days on end, riding horseback, eating whatever could be found for survival. I have a hunch a toothbrush wasn’t high on the list of things to carry. My bet would be those guys didn’t appear quite so debonair.
For many years now, my ‘other’ line of work has been in the dental field, so I think about such things and have heard lots of stories about the not-so good old days.
The wonderful thing is, the office in which I work is filled with laughter, patients dropping by to tell us about the newest addition to the family, sometimes a new grandchild, other times a new puppy. It is a place of care, and that goes beyond the limited and obvious, but extends to everything that makes for a happy environment.
My boss is a wonderfully easy-going guy who has third and even fourth generation families returning to him for their care.
Not long ago, a man came in to our office and we struck up a conversation about his line of work in his younger day. He had owned a construction company, and one of his right-hand men, we were both surprised to learn, was a fellow I have known from our pre-school days all the way through to today. As this gentleman was leaving that day, he commented that he never thought he would look forward to coming back to a dental office, but he found that he really was.
It may never be someone’s favorite place to go, but it’s happily progressed leaps and bounds over our lifetime, making a great smile a little easier to come by.