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From the Publisher’s Desk – Excavation site temporarily closed (March 1, 2016 issue)

By Keith Whitson

The process began like all those in the past. The site was prepped for digging. Precision tools were made easily accessible so as to perform the  meticulous task at hand. I had done all I could to get ready. I had been in the preparation stages for six months. It all came down to last Friday.

I showed up early at the site, but the team was running behind. My adrenaline was pumping. After I was finally allowed back where the process would soon begin, my breathing seemed to pick up faster and unnatural. I had witnessed this many times before over the years, but each time was a new experience and brought a huge adrenaline rush.

I was nervous over what would be uncovered and if anything had been damaged since the last excavation date. I was directed to a special chair that was provided for my benefit and given a pair of goggles for protection. I removed my prescription glasses and awkwardly placed the provided pair on my face. “Quite bland,” I thought to myself, but they will protect me in case of flying debris.

The bright lights were directed toward the site. Out of nervous anticipation, I started gripping the arms of my seat. It would begin any moment now.

As the specialist prepped and moved in closer, the digging and scraping began. Scrape a small space and then pick at the surrounding area. It could only be accomplished in these small increments and certainly not hastily.

As debris was removed, the trained professional would next apply air to brush away the particles. At times water was sprayed on the work area at hand to wash away any lose debris. A  vacuum sucked it out to allow for continuous work.

It is at least twice a year that I make my way to the site. I have been doing it since my youth, but each time brings an overwhelming sense of uncertainty. Although the professionals have much improved the skills over the years, the flashbacks are all too real.

I didn’t understand the process early on and sometimes got in the way of things. After that, it was a few years that I didn’t go back.

Dr. Dan Moore was the first to introduce me to the procedure as was my childhood dentist. His office was on Love Street, where Dr. Charles Miller is located now.

I remember being called back into a room, which seemed cold in appearance. As I sat in the procedure chair I could see an attached tray in front of me, filled with  what seemed like tiny “torture” tools. It swiveled around, connected to the chair I sat in.

I can still see that small porcelain bowl sink that had continuous swirling water. To a child, it seemed like I would be drowning in my own saliva, before given permission to spit in the bowl.

Dr. Moore was continually telling me to open wider. My small mouth just didn’t seem to stretch wide enough to support his large hands. Somewhere in the meantime, my thoughts would drift off and my mouth would start to slowly close down. It was then that I would hear him call out, “Wider, please.”

At some young age, with my eyes closed and not understanding what was taking place with cotton, wooden sticks and the latex gloved hands, I strongly bit down on Dr. Moore. I was young. Who knows, maybe I did it on purpose, but I missed a few visits before my mom had the nerve to take me back. I was now labeled. I single handedly had tried to destroy the career of my dentist by maiming him mid cleaning.

Mom did eventually take me back to him. I don’t know if there was a  cautionary mark beside my name or if he even remembered the incident. However, I now had a cavity that needed attention. Maybe I really didn’t have one and this was just his way of getting even with me.

Over the years I been to four or five dentists. I haven’t found one that I look forward to seeing, but I do like my current one. The office staff seems very clean, with special stations for everything and special techniques for sanitizing.

My struggles now are don’t brush too hard and remember to floss, floss, floss. The various techniques for brushing have varied over the years from scrub to gently rolling the toothbrush over the teeth.

If you don’t have your  gums toughened before teeth cleaning, they are going to tell on you. I start weeks before with extra prepping for this part of the exam. Before last week’s visit I brushed, flossed, brushed again, swished peroxide and used mouthwash and finished with lip ointment so my lips wouldn’t be dried and possibly crack. I was as ready as I could be physically but not mentally.

I tried to find the happy place in my mind but it was somewhere other than where I was. It is hard to zone out with lights in your face, a hand in your mouth and machine hum in your ears. There is nothing worse than the sound of the humming motor or the chilling grind against the pearly surface of your molars. Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, like a thousand bees unleashed, the noise haunts me.

I guess dentist and staff try and take my mind off of the current situation by asking random questions. The dentist office is no place to conduct random chat. “Is it raining outside?,” the hygienist asked. “Naht yeuht,” I responded. “It is apost ew bu Unday,” I continued.

“Oh you take excellent care of your teeth,” my hygienist said. By the end of the appointment, I had praise for my good job and a clean bill on my teeth.

It can’t be easy for them. Imagine being presented a mystery door all day long. Once opened, it can either be a delightful surprise or a horrible nightmare to face. Luckily, I passed. Now I can start dreading my return dig in September.