Oh, no! Not the dentist

Dentists make me sick.
Oh, it’s not because of their personalities or chair-side manners. Kelton McClinton is a nice guy and our family goes to him for checkups.

No, dentists make me sick because they want to put things in my mouth.
It makes me gag. So do lollipops, chewing gum, and thermometers.
It started a long time ago. My parents would buy my sister and me lollipops. Donna would put hers in her mouth and keep it there until it was gone. I would lick on mine a few seconds and then take it out. A lollipop could last me all day.
So going to the dentist always has been a challenge. I had several cavities when I was young and getting them filled was an ordeal. Fortunately, when I was in fourth grade, we moved from the farm to a town where the water was fluoridated. No more cavities.
I’m very matter-of-fact when I go to a new dentist: If I raise my hand, it means the dentist or hygienist has about five seconds to get out of my mouth.
I’ve managed to get my teeth cleaned, have avoided flossing, and had no dental problems.
At least until about four weeks ago, when a terrible toothache developed. I put off doing anything about it for several days, hoping it would go away. My wife told me to see the dentist before it got worse. Just the thought of it made me sick, but I finally decided to drop by his office to make an appointment.
“Have you got any openings in the next couple of weeks?” I asked Cathy McClinton at the front desk. “I’ve got a toothache.”
She surprised me by suggesting that he could take a look at it right away.
“Oh, but I just came from having a salad with garlic for lunch,” I said, hoping to put it off.
No problem. They had toothpaste and toothbrushes to spare. In five minutes, I had brushed my teeth and was in the dentist’s chair.
Dr. McClinton asked which tooth was bothering me, tapped on it with his dental mirror, and I about jumped out of the chair.
“You need a root canal,” he said, and made an appointment with Dr. Harry Cosby, an endodontist in Tupelo. He decided that because I have an extreme gag reflex, he would need to do the work while I was under general anesthetic at an oral surgery center. Last Friday afternoon, I had the root canal.
Of course, I didn’t know anything about it, because I was asleep. After it was over, I asked him how it went.
Is my gag reflex all in my head?
Dr. Cosby laughed and said it wasn’t: “About every minute or so, I would have to stop because you were starting to gag.”
He told me that he’d work a little while, I’d begin to gag, and he’d motion to the doctor administering the anesthesia to hit me again. He fanned himself with his shirt, and joked that he’d gotten a good workout while he was treating my tooth.
Dr. William West, his partner in my treatment, confirmed the details.
“There are other people who have this problem, right?” I asked. They shook their heads and assured me that my condition was pretty extreme.
So it’s a trade-off: They make me sick, and I make them sweat.
I guess I’d better go brush.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by-email at publisher@newalbanygazette.com.