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.
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.
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.