As those of you who read my blog regularly know, I’ve been writing a lot lately about canine dental care. It started with my New Year’s resolution to brush Frankie’s teeth; I went on to discuss the problems with anesthesia-free cleanings. I plan to continue with the topic, to review dental chews and give instructions on brushing.

But I also want to come clean about why the first professional cleaning I took Frankie to was so traumatic for me, and why I’m agonizing over where to go for the second one.

I’m going to reveal the roots, as it were, of my preoccupation — my BFF Clare would call it an obsession — with teeth.

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Like all stories of adult fixation, mine dates back to childhood. You see, my father was a dental technician, a handcrafter of bridges, crowns, and dentures.

My father's profession, American style

Now that may sound like a lucrative skill but it wasn’t, at least not as my father practiced it. Perhaps, as a European refugee, he lacked American business savvy. I don’t know the details of our family’s income. The “p” word, poverty, was never mentioned. I do know that, until I was 12 years old, my mother, father, sister and I all shared a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, and that my mother also worked, as a fur finisher, sewing the skins together to make fur coats. (My mother hated PETA for its anti-fur campaigns, which she saw as threatening her livelihood; my dislike of the group, for different reasons, is therefore a family tradition).

Our neighborhood wasn’t fancy and my friends weren’t rich, so I never considered myself underprivileged except in two ways: My mother made my clothes when I longed for store-bought ones (what I wouldn’t give now to have her skilled custom clothing!). And instead of getting my dentistry paid for like other kids, my teeth were fixed in exchange for my father’s dental wares.

Did  Dr. Goldstein, my designated dentist, provide me with inferior care? Probably not. But I didn’t like the disrespectful way in which he referred to my father, his brusqueness when my father dropped off a package. And because I had terrible teeth, I had to put up with both the drilling and the shame, week after week, for several years.

Still, I got over it. Or so I thought.

Fast forward to 2007. I am told that Frankie needs to have his teeth professionally cleaned. My regular vet, not a dental specialist, charges $400, which seems steep. I decide instead to go dental clinic recommended by a friend, for a far more reasonable $150.

Flashbacks…guilt… Stay tuned for the story of  the doggie dental clinic trauma.

5 thoughts on “Dental confessions: A brief digression”

  1. Edie, this just shows that all things occur for a reason. (Ha, you know what a curmudgeonly skeptic and agnostic I am!) Which is to say that you are now the sage of teeth. You have a lifelong understanding of the issue, and the biology really is not very different between canines and humans (after all, we have canines). Thank you.

  2. I recently took my dog, Dash, to have his teeth cleaned. I, too, was shocked by the cost. And then the vet explained to me that the high price paid for the anesthesia – not really the actual cleaning. It would have cost almost the same amount to have his entire mouth cleaned as it would just to have a tooth pulled. Sigh.

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