News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

June 9, 2014

LIZ CIANCONE: Dental gains came with far less pain

TERRE HAUTE — Sometimes I wonder if the “good old days” were all they are cracked up to be. I’ll give you the “old” but the jury is still out on “good.”

All this was going through my mind the other day as I sat in the dental chair awaiting the arrival of the dental hygienist to come in with the tools of her trade and begin the semiannual cleaning process. I can’t honestly claim that I was looking forward to this, but neither did I feel the apprehension of those “good old days.”

For one thing, dental cleaning was all but unknown. A trip to the dentist was to deal with a crisis. You suffered a toothache or lost a filling, and treatment involved sitting there while the dentist ground away with a slow-speed drill which rattled every brain cell in your head.

The drilling process was not cooled with a spray of water either, so the combination of heat and drill inclined a sensitive soul to postpone a dental visit as long as possible. That, of course, could end in an “extraction” which meant a shot of novocaine and, I swear, I could feel the puncture in my gum for several days.

I thought about this as I sat there sporting a bib (in case I drooled) and relaxing (more or less) as I waited. How much less an ordeal a dental appointment is with those good old days relegated to history.

My permanent teeth arrived on schedule but there didn’t seem to be room enough for all of them. Orthodontia was all but unknown, especially if space was the problem. My two front teeth were spaced like TV talk show host Michael Strahan’s, but without his charm. Mom was given a bunch of tiny rubber bands and I was to wear them around those two teeth for as long at a time as I could stand it. This was supposed to pull them together, and it did. Space remained a problem, however, and my eye tooth was pushed forward leaving me looking like a vampire on the hunt. That led to an early extraction.

I needed a lot of dental work when I finished college. The dentist greeted me with a sedative, then the numbing drugs and, finally, the dreaded drill. My wisdom teeth had to come out, too.

Yes, my teeth are original. They are far from starlet standards, but they are mine. I’ve had extractions, fillings, crowns and even a dreaded root canal, all of which hurt less than those early visits to Dr. Dixon.

So you may have the good old days. I’m signing on for progress.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send email to

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