Times Past: Dental Memories

Oh Irene, what a topic for this month on Times Past!

I’m a Baby Boomer who grew up in Adelaide, capital of South Australia though I did have a father with a rural background which had quite an influence on our lives.

My first memory of a dentist was being taken there by Dad, presumably because I had toothache. He left me in the surgery and went off to do some business or maybe just to escape in case I cried. I don’t remember anything about the experience except that I walked out of there with a tooth in my hand. I suspect I might have been wondering if the Tooth Fairy paid up for holey teeth. I would have been less than 5 years old.

We went to the dentist regularly and I always had heaps of fillings. For some reason I didn’t have strong teeth like my brothers and younger sister. We only had lollies or soft drinks on very special occasions. I brushed my teeth and brushed them to the point that I made grooves along the gum lines but still, I was the one who needed fillings. Every time! In 1971 fluoride was introduced to South Australia’s water supply and my grandchildren rarely have a filling.

When I was 13 I was running across a lawn at school, I slipped and when I fell my mouth hit the concrete edging. It broke off half a tooth and chipped another. The school phoned Mum and she made an appointment with the dentist. I caught the bus back from school into the city and another towards home getting off at the stop near the dentist. He put a copper sleeve over the broken tooth and that stayed in place for months. Over time the edge of the copper would flatten out and abrade my soft skin then I’d have to go back and get it filed smooth again. Eventually the teeth were crowned and after that abcesses developed under the crowns and dealing with those required more drilling! I hate the sound of the high speed drill.

Me, with copper tooth band, brother Mike and younger sister, Jayne

Me, with copper tooth band, brother Mike and younger sister, Jayne

Once, when I was about 15, Mum made me take my youngest sister to the dentist, she bit his finger and he was so cross he made me take her home again. He told me to tell Mum she had to make an appointment with the doctor for my sister to be “knocked out” before he’d touch her again. I was mortified.

I loathe dental injections and for a few years put up with the short term pain of having fillings without them but after a dentist inserted a pin in a tooth and I felt every bit of it going in I went back to having injections.

I looked forward to being 30 because I’d decided that by then my teeth would all need to come out, I’d get false teeth and never have to go back to the dentist again. Now, decades later I still have my own teeth and I’m still going to the dentist every 6 months! My brother, he of the few fillings, is the one who has been told he’ll need false teeth because he’s worn his down chewing on chop bones.