Dental Ben's ReprieveThursday, October 13, 2011
Dental Ben (Dr. Ben Balevi) is an advocate and practicioner of evidence-based dentistry.
|Laurence Olivier & Dustin Hoffman|
Horror movies have never ever been my favourites. The first one I ever saw was enough for me even though it was supposed to be a funny one. With my father I saw in 1949 (I was 7) Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein. This film also featured Bella Lugosi (he scared the hell out of me) as Count Dracula and Lon Chaney as The Wolfman. I must have seen most of this film through the crook of my left elbow over my face.
I have simply never been a fan of gratuitous violence. The more blood the least likely I will ever see a film. But sometimes skillful directors lure me (I am sure this in not their primary intention) to see films that scare me and go beyond my threshold of tolerance of such a thing.
First in this list of films that I would never ever see again (even if I will admit it was a well made one) is John Schlesinger’s 1976 Marathon Man with Laurence Olivier, Dustin Hoffman and Roy Scheider. The scene on the dental chair surpasses for me anything done before (Psycho) or since.
|John Schlesinger - A W-H|
My experience with dentists has been the equivalent one of having flown in both a DC-3 landing on a dirt runway to being on board the latest Airbus. Yes, I remember those slow drills and how dentist expected us all to have tolerance for pain and to develop on that dental chair an ability to make that threshold bigger and bigger.
By the mid 60s the Argentine Merchant Marine officers were supplementing their meager salaries by smuggling into Buenos Aires Levi's and high speed turbo dental drills.
In the early 70s I had to go to the dentist to have a wisdom tooth removed in Mexico City. My dentist, looked like a matinee idol and perhaps it was for that reason that Mexican film stars went to him to get jackets (that’s what they called them instead of caps) to make those smiles ever more Colgate. I don’t remember if my wife Rosemary accompanied me because of my dentist’s looks or because she understood of my dental phobia and would hold my hand. Doc, that’s what he liked to be called told me that my wisdom tooth was growing sideways so that he could not extract it with normal methods. He told me it was a different and much improved tool. The tool in question was a miniaturized pneumatic jackhammer, the kind (when not miniaturized) used to tear up concrete pavement.
The short version of the story is that during this procedure I fainted and fell to the floor. Doc and Rosemary picked me up. Since that day, even a simple blood test means I have to look away and tell the person making the test that there is a possibility I may collapse.
The peak of my dental fears happened some 25 years ago when I was having a root canal performed. The dentist had a very large ocean scene (it was backlit) so that when your dental chair was reclined you saw what was supposed to be a calm inducing scene. The doctor did not know that I had read enough nautical novels set in the 18th century where tooth removal on board His Majesty Navy’s ships-of-the-line were performed while a Marine drummer playing as loudly as possible next to the victim’s ear. The noise was supposed to ease the pain. More likely the drums simply drowned out the cries of teror.
My tooth had been opened and I was more or less not in pain. The dentist then rested all his tools and told me, “I charge extra for this and it is not covered by your dental plan. Do you want me to proceed?”
|The view from Dental Ben's chair|
My trip to see Dental Ben (Ben Balevi, B.Eng, D.D.S., Dip EBHC (Oxford), M.Sc) this morning was full of those misgivings I felt in my youth when I would approach a confessional booth at a Catholic church. I was in fear.
Dental Ben told me (with lots of detail) something like this: “Unless you put a gun to my head I don’t want to perform a root canal today. I feel that there is a big possibility that your tooth is healing and that the pain will go away. If it does not, make sure you get my cellular number.” And with a pleasant smile on his face Dental Ben told me to go. My day of execution had been reprieved and only now do I understand what Dental Ben means by evidence-based dental care. Years ago the tooth would have either been pulled out or I would have been forced to watch ocean foam over rocks.