Wordless Wednesday: Toothy-ness

This post is in honor of my dentist dad, and is also in honor of the root canal I underwent this morning.

Be advised this post contains images and details that might be disturbing to people who hate dentists. If you are phobic that way, better not click through.

My dad in his dental office, c. 1961, in the days when the dentist ALWAYS stood. The patient is his brother Frank.

Yep, that’s my dad, Peter J. Haigney, D.D.S. (1924-83), with the state-of-the-art dental setup of the 1960s. No hi-def TV in the office, nor even any Muzak.

Patients in those days knew better than to expect entertainment. Heck, my mother was just grateful there was Novocain on offer. She told me once that the dentist of her childhood never used any painkillers when he was filling her teeth.

“What did you DO?” we asked.

“I offered it up to God,” she said.

I am happy to report my dad did not cheap out on the Novocain, and even today, I can take a dental injection like a champ. I had years of expert training.

As a teen-ager, I worked in the dental office, doing filing, typing, billing and very occasionally handing this or that instrument to my father. Normally, he had a professional assistant to do that, and besides, Dad was very old-school about keeping chairside help to a minimum. Dental work was serious business, conducted standing up. I’ve no idea what he’d make of the dentistry of today, in which the assistant and the dentist sit on either side of the patient and conduct a complicated choreography over a wide-open jaw. I find today’s way more interesting, myself.

But in retrospect, I always have appreciated the time I spent working for Dad in the office. It was a wonderful opportunity to see him absorbed in demanding work he truly loved, and in which he took enormous pride. All the cheap dentist jokes in the world couldn’t take anything away from that.

I still like going to dentists, chatting them up and talking shop. They love to hear my father was a dentist, and if they’re old enough to appreciate it, I treat them to my imitation of the amalgam-mixing machine.

What? It’s priceless! Well, I guess you had to be there.

This morning I had an intense session at the endodontist’s, taking care of a troublesome molar that turned out to have not two, not three, but four roots in need of excavation. That aside, I was enthralled by all the cutting-edge equipment. An electronic microscope so the dentist could see my roots in living close-up!? Really?

When the bulk of the scraping and filing and poking was done, the endodontist and I looked at an enlarged image of my molar on a computer screen (Computers!!! If only Dad could see!!).

We stared in silence at the image of the cleaned-out roots snaking lazily across the screen.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?” the endodontist sighed.

I nodded in heartfelt agreement. I’d have said more, but there was still a rubber dam in my mouth.

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One Comment on “Wordless Wednesday: Toothy-ness”

  1. I’m a little in awe of someone who can chat with a dentist and share admiration of a good root canal. Of course, my dad wasn’t a dentist, and my childhood anticipation of pain and suffering was largely self-inflicted. It couldn’t have been as bad as I remember it.


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