I remember my first dentist visit. Well, parts of it, with memories of blood and pain. In trying to piece it all together for this column, it’s like trying put together a torn and yellowed old photograph. The details are scattered around in my mind.

It was 1940, I think, and Paddy Carr had accidentally smashed me in the face with a bamboo fishing pole, and it cut my lip and broke a tooth on the lower right side of my mouth.

This preface is key to the finale here.

I do remember how, on that day, a bloody piece of my tooth just floated around in the back of my mouth like a piece of candy, and finally dropped out into my hand, blood and all. And when Paddy saw it, he started crying and ran home.

My mother was still getting over my father’s death and was still laying on the couch with a wet cloth on her migraine, so my Aunt Winnie took me to Chippewa Street to her dentist.

Our family doctor, Dr. Bater, with no dental skills, was only six blocks away on Virginia Avenue and made no house calls. Remember house calls? You probably don’t remember Franklin Roosevelt, either. It’s not important to this story.


Everything that day is a blur. Who really wants to remember the death of a tooth?

It went quickly. My tooth was taken by a really tall old man who smelled of Vick’s Salve, and I was out.

I do remember, that after it was over, Aunt Winnie took me to a book store and bought me three of a collection of Frank L. Baum’s “Wizard of Oz,” and afterwards, we went to see the movie. That’s my memory of seeing the “Wizard of Oz” with a numb mouth and no popcorn.

So to the point: Dentistry today is higher tech than space travel.

After super wide scope X-rays, my diagnosis was spoken. It meant that the entire bridge had to be taken out as well.

Tuesday last, I was sent to the oral surgeon in Augusta to have it removed.


The oral surgeon’s office had a full waiting room. There was no glamour there. Fifteen young women armed the desk. No humor. Sign here, go sit down.

Everything was clean and brown; brown chairs, brown walls with motel paintings on the wall. It made my dentist’s new office look like Mar-a-Lago.

Things move fast at an oral surgeon’s dungeon. I was put on the requisite leather couch, and it began.

In came the oral surgeon. His title is scary but he reeked of professionalism.

He was a tall man with a reassuring smile, but not given to stand-up comedy. I made a few of my usual jokes to lower my level of fear.

“Do I get the tooth for the tooth fairy?”


That bounced off of his blue garment and laid there on the floor.

He quickly jabbed the needle into my jaw several times, patted my arm, smiled and said he’d be back in a few minutes.

His manner was calm and fast. I could see there that the tooth fairy would not be here today.

In what seemed like five minutes, he was back.

“How’s it feel in there?” He said with a smile.

I replied, “Well … ”


He cut me off and he jabbed it again, and my shoe strings went numb.

With dexterity and swiftness, he removed the offending tooth in two pieces. I had a joke about taking them home in a baggie, but my lips wouldn’t form words.

I was given a set of instructions and sent on my way. No Frank L. Baum books. No popcorn.

My surgeon smiled and went on to his next job.

After that, She and I went to Panera. She had a chicken salad sandwich, and I watched. “Did you tell the tooth fairy joke?” she asked.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: