She was just about school age, maybe a little older when she was enrolled into a year or two long childhood dental study.
Her parents, people wholly unready for the cost of having children, (who would have teeth that worked into adulthood) realized they had to do something. They heard that a local hospital had dental students who would, under the supervision of trained licensed dentists, (hygienists and assistants as well) inspect and care for a child's teeth. Then, the school would decide how long the child would be in the program.
In their best clothes, Mother (Father was at work) and daughter went to the Dental School.
Little legs walked many long white corridors until finally, she was asked to sit in a large, younger depressor shaped chair. The chair was the color of an elephant's leg and surrounded by a clear plastic sheath. Above the chair, strange disks, multiple eyes bright and uncaring, hung by cold arms that protruded from the floor. Canisters holding various dental supplies lined the walls, and a stand of tubes with a silvery tray perched next to the chair. She edged closer to her Mother's side, wary of the gleaming hooks and picks.
After some grown up talking, she was put in the chair and three people descended upon her mouth. The disks fully lit, paper bib securely around her neck, daughter opened her mouth wide as they counted each tooth, prodded each molar, scraped her incisors, and poked her gums.
"Large overbite, 75%." One voice said.
"Crowding up top." Another said.
They continued their work, drying the inside of her mouth, then wetting it again, poking around some more and having her spit into a tube.
Then, they left. Her Mother said she did a wonderful job.
After awhile the dentists returned. It was explained to her Mother that she was a perfect candidate for the dental school. Especially if Mother and Father allowed their daughter to get braces. Even if her parents decided against braces, they could definitely use her in the program for the upcoming months.
Mother and Daughter were lead out of the office and taken to a lobby where a treasure chest sat. Inside was every toy a young child could want: paper yo-yos, Chinese fans, necklaces and rings, cars, trucks, wooden airplanes, sunglasses, drawing kits with markers and paper, plastic animals, sea creatures, magic wands, little swords, silly putty, slime, and bouncy balls of every color and type. The young girl's eyes grew large and she was offered one prize for being such a "trooper."
Completely gobsmacked, she carefully walked up to the toy chest. Quietly she picked out her prize, a beautiful fan made of creamy white paper, that opened into a beautiful red floral scene. Gently holding the little black metal handles, she folded up the fan and tucked it away in her pocket.
The next time she can back was less scary. She met a young woman, Caroline. Caroline was going to be a dentist when she finished school. She was beautiful with short brown hair that curled into her light pink cheeks. She had a wide grin, and the most beautiful white teeth the young girl had ever seen. Her eyes were very kind and she spoke softly to the young girl like she was just as intelligent as she.
Naturally, Caroline became the young girl's favorite student. Every visit, no matter who had been assigned to see the young girl, Caroline would appear.
This went in for a year or so, and the young girl learned to floss, brush in circular motions, recognize gum disease, and improve her over all dental health.
The Dental School was so pleased with the young girl's progress, easy manner, and the many extremes her teeth showcased for the students, that she was asked to continue on until she was to start middle school.
Mother and Father were very happy. The little girl was too, not only would she continue to have new toys (a rare thing in her household, new unused toys), she could see Caroline. She was to come back every 3 months.
As it happened, Caroline was able to stay with the young girl for quite some time. One day, Caroline asked Mother if she could take Daughter on a walk. Mother said yes.
They walked down a sunny white hallway, greeting patients and students as they passed. Caroline began to tell the young girl that she was going to be a dentist now, she had passed all her classes and she was done. She explained that she dreamed of going to Africa to help little children like her learn how to take care of their teeth. She had been accepted into such a program and she was going to be leaving soon, hopefully for many years. She was very excited.
Saddened, the young girl understood and wished Caroline well. She even acted happy upon hearing the news, though she cried a little bit later. Loosing a friend at any age can be a hard thing.
The little girl continued to go back to the Dental School until she effectively aged out of the program. Once she did, it would be 20 years until she stepped into a dental office again for an appointment. (Such is the reality of insurance and money)
She was grown with a child of her own now, and she had set up appoints for herself, husband, and son. When it was her turn to go back, she suddenly recalled many of those good dental memories she had not thought about in a long time.
The chairs still looked the same only bright orange. The office was painted brightly and the lights were much smaller (though still attached to metal arms- smaller ones though). The tray of hooks and picks had not changed, and now there was a strange watery tool that cleaned in between and on the teeth (for tarter and the like).
She had x-rays done, thank the Lord those painful plastic film squares were gone, and 20 years and 50 minutes later all of the yellow tarter was stripped from her teeth. She laughed at her reflection in the mirror as the rightly proud dental hygienist looked over her shoulder.
She was informed she had no cavities, and that overbite was still there (but only at 50% now). If she wanted, there were many options for braces nowadays.
She scheduled an appointment to see that doctor (for braces) on another day.
As she went back to the lobby she spied a familiar large box, almost like a treasure chest, overflowing with all sorts of gadgets. She smiled to herself and remembered.
Thank you for reading Teeth! Although parts of this story have been altered for privacy and memory sake, yes indeed Caroline existed. She did indeed go off to Africa and changed many a child's dental world! I was very lucky to be one of her many patients at UNC Hospital's Dental School. I am happy to say also that my appointment did go very well, and I have very good teeth… but they assured me going another 20 years isn't a good idea.
I always find writing about myself in this manner is easier. You will find many more of my childhood stories on this site, in some form. I hope no matter the subject matter, that you enjoy them!
Thanks for reading!