Now, I know many of my friends are aghast that I hardly ever go to the dentist. But it is because you folks have no idea what the compulsory dental check-ups were like in the bad old days when I was a child.
We lived in fear and trembling of the dreaded yellow card which would be sent to our classroom. In the midst of the class's collective gasp, our teacher read out the name of the unfortunate child whose turn it was to go to the dentist's surgery downstairs. The rest of us relaxed until the inevitable day when our turn came.
Our dentist in those days was a dragon lady, at least so it seemed to me. Wielding an extraordinarily sharp tool, she would determinedly chisel away plaque and tartar, digging into tender gums, even as I squirmed and cried. As I spat out mouthfuls of saliva, blood and water, the metallic taste made me want to vomit. One day, when I returned to class in a smeary mess of tears, my teacher marched to the dentist's surgery to demand an explanation.
So when it was finally time for me to go to the dentist again, I was a nervous wreck in the waiting room, filled with ominous drilling sounds. On the dentist chair, I screwed my eyes shut, resigned myself to fate and tried not to have a panic attack.
Oh boy, it must have been a truly long time since my school dentist's days. Dental treatments have transformed so drastically! Instead of that horrible needle-like gum-killer, the dentist used two machines that felt much gentler. There was none of that nasty scraping and digging which had caused me so much trauma when I was young. There was hardly any blood either. And yes, there was no one to shout at me, "open your mouth wider!"
Before my latest visit, memories of my former dental visits kept returning to haunt me, especially visions of water and blood swirling down the sink. I hated to experience that again.
Yet the actual experience is so different from my fears. Maybe children's terrors get magnified out of proportion, and I never grew out of them. In a very trivial way, this experience showed me that the best way to exorcise fears is to confront them with the truth. When I know what the truth is, the truth will set me free.