My Dentophobia

Arshid Malik

Toothache is the most devastating disease I have ever come face to face with. It sucks you in and then throws you out; it rides your nerves and pulsates in your temples; it locks you in and sets you free. Toothache is terrible and shakes your core like an earthquake shakes the earth’s core. And most people I know agree that toothache is the worst thing that can happen to a person on an “instant sickness” basis and that there is very little you can do about it except writhe in agony and pain till the “shocks” subside and why you cannot do much about it despite the fact that a multitude of analgesics are available over the counter worldwide to fight this menace is because it takes over you at a time when you least expect it and when the chances of your getting to a drug counter and bartering some of your greens for the placid reds and browns are grotesquely minuscule.

I have learnt my lessons the hard way under the light of the fact that I simply abhor dental checkups and go sick in the stomach at the very sight of a dentist armed with his or her “shining armor”. It is my way of escaping the very mention of the fact that I suffer from Dentophobia. The only past recollections I have of having been to a dentist is rooted back in my childhood and the memory itself is hurting and sends me spiraling into fistfuls of anosmatic nausea. What is more dreadful is that all I can associate to dentists and oral hygiene on site a dental clinic are freakish stories that I recollect about a molar being uprooted with a pair of tongs and no anesthesia at all. Now, it is a bad thing I have since I have not been getting along well with my teeth lately and I mean to do everything possible to get over this accrued “curse”.

I have had very deep seated connections with psychology ever since I learnt to hold a book upright in my pair of hands and I have often wandered far into the realms of modern psychoanalysis, even though I affiliate better with traditional and tartaric psychoanalysis. I have come to learn, during my long hauled, relationship with psychoanalysis, that almost all fears have origins in one’s formative years and what all happened during those years. When attending to my basic and somewhat presumptive Dentophobia from the psychoanalytic bent of my mind, I am driven far into the memories of my childhood. I recollect that it was a bright day and my mother was supposed to go for a dental checkup. Between the lines, she had shiny, pearl-sized, pearl-white white teeth that everyone adored and somehow the evil eye got to them.

Anyways, I was assigned the duty to accompany my mother to the dentist’s and see to it that she had a good checkup and just in case she needed someone around. My father resolutely fixated the task unto me, while I was trying to make up excuses as that very afternoon one of my favorite blockbuster movies was being aired on Doordarshan and while I was damn sure that there was no way anyone had come even close to movies being watched at one’s leisure over spinning discs on a plenary rotator – what I later learnt was called a “CD Player”. So it had to be.

I remember I was in a naughty mood while accompanying my mother to the dentist and in the light of the fact that my relationship with my mother had always been full of laughter and fun, I decided to pull a prank on her.

As we slipped into the dentist’s clinic the feisty smell of antiseptics caught up to my nostrils in a dramatic manner. The dentist excused himself and went to a nearby wash basin to clean up his messy hands, while I muttered to my mother. I told her that the dentist was planning to pluck away all her teeth and that too in a very hurtful manner, with a pair of tongs and no anesthetic – my classic imagery in which my Dentophobia is rooted. My narrative was so dramatic that I really scared my mother into doing something unexpected. While the dentist was getting “hygienic” for the next checkup, my mother literally got up and ran out of the clinic with me caught up in my act and wondering what had happened. I woke from my “ogre drama” when the doctor asked for the patient. I took to my heels after my mother who was gasping for air in the street below. She waved to an auto rickshaw and we both hopped in and landed home. My “trick up the sleeve” earned me a good beating at home and there and then I presume the seed of my Dentophobia was laid.

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