Sunday, May 2, 2021

More Pain With and Without Novocaine

It seems I struck a nerve with my last blog’s dental tales, especially the administration of novocaine to ease suffering. Apparently, while I withstood the trauma of dental work as best I could with the administration of novocaine, lots of people are more fearful or indifferent to the drug than they are to the pain inflicted by their dentist. 

Gilda, for example, disdains the use of novocaine. Putting up with me for a half century no doubt has inured her to physical pain. 

“My childhood dentist didn’t use novocaine,” Hank reported

My sister Lee said, “I remember when he (Dr. Turetsky) would give me a novocaine shot. His nurse would cover my eyes so I wouldn’t see the gigantic apparatus (needle). 

“Well, one day she did not do a good job of blocking my view and I saw ‘it.’ Today, I can still feel the fear of seeing it. Each time I close my eyes when I need novocaine that fear returns.”

“Oh, to have had the benefit of fluoride!,” moaned Michael. “Like you I had lots of cavities as a child. Our family dentist in Omaha was a member of our shul. A big, tall man—with drills to match. 

“And, as I remember all too well, a novocaine syringe that was at least 2 feet long. I was so traumatized by that torture device that for years I forswore novocaine and just endured the drilling.”

Arguably, avoidance is a tactic many take, though I personally do not recommend it. Nor do I endorse repeated exposure to pain. 

I’m always cautious when a dentist advises a procedure would entail little or no pain. I’m reminded of an experience one of my executive editors had back in the early 1980s. 

After returning to America from years abroad in Singapore, Peter needed a root canal treatment. Having no regular dentist, he made an appointment with a father-son practice based on the recommendation of a friend. 

The friend advised him to pick the son. He didn’t listen.

The septuagenarian dentist asked Peter if he believed in new-fangled treatments, you know, things like novocaine. Ever the traditionalist, Peter said no, that whatever the dentist thought necessary was okay by him.

Now, anyone who’s ever had a root canal knows it’s one of the more painful procedures you will undergo in a dentist’s chair. Think  the movie Marathon Man. It’s definitely not safe. Many times over. Peter came back to the office lamenting his dual decisions to sit for the elderly dentist and to believe him when he said it wouldn’t hurt.

What always amazed me is when Peter returned for the required second and third treatments, he continued to allow the senior dentist to work on his mouth—without novocaine!!!

As quickly as I could I arranged his transfer to another publication. No way I wanted someone with that amount of judgment working for me.