Let’s get this out of the way; I hate going to the dentists! This is a long standing fear that was established when I was a kid. Unlike a lot of today’s dentistry, back when I was a kid dentists could have cared less whether you were a kid or an adult. Not only that but my earliest dental visits were with military dentists; you can imagine that bedside manner wasn’t a big thing with them in this regard.

Smile Design PCHow bad is my fear? I went from age 12 to 21 without going to see a dentist. The only reason I went then is because I broke a tooth on one of those hard granola bars we used to have, before someone decided to make them chewy. It took going to an oral surgeon who looked and sounded like Mr. Rogers, who also put me to sleep, to get that tooth removed; whew!

Then it was another 5 years before I ended up going to another dentist, one recommended by my dad. I always left in pain, whether it was having my teeth cleaned or getting fillings taken care of. I’ll admit that my hygienist was uber attractive, which was probably the only thing that kept me going for 3 years but once I started working out of town, that was that.

The next time I saw a dentist was 5 years later, when I had so much pain in my mouth that I finally started taking pain killer, which I hadn’t taken in nearly 15 years, and when that didn’t work anymore and I hadn’t eaten for 2 days I finally convinced myself to go to Syracuse Community Health Center, where I was working at the time under contract, to see what was going on. I got lucky that Saturday as I ended up being treated by a dentist named Xandria Sutherland-Pollard, who didn’t have big meaty hands and was as kind as she could be… which turned out to be something I needed because my blood pressure was off the charts. She ended up pulling that tooth (when the choices were between $45 to pull the tooth or $450 for a root canal… please!), and that alleviated that pain after a few days.

I started going to another dentist 5 or 6 years after that, as my wife had been recommended to someone who accepted the dental insurance we had. I went to that office off and on for 12 years, a record for me, once again mainly because of the hygienist, who didn’t hurt me as much as I’d had the one years earlier did. The dentist was a great guy, but he wasn’t the most tender of practitioners either.

Back in October I broke another tooth, this time by popcorn; stupid popcorn I’ll say because in December it broke a second tooth. Even though we had dental insurance, I wasn’t in pain so I never bothered to try to reach my dentist’s office. However, after smaller pieces of that first tooth started chipping off I figured it was time to have it taken care of. I called my dentist’s office… only to learn that he had retired and someone else had taken his practice over; ouch!

X-rays of teethThat practice was in the city of Syracuse, and I live in Liverpool, and I figured it was time to start going to someone closer. I had stayed with the other practice out of loyalty; I’m nothing if not loyal. So, when it was time to decide where to go, I only had one person and practice in mind.

That would be Smile Design, PC, at 7655 Oswego Road, which is run by the aforementioned Dr. Sutherland-Pollard and her husband Brian, and is only a mile and a half from my house. I figured that if she had taken care of me years ago and made me calm that she was probably the best candidate to take care of me this time around. I called to make an appointment, and the receptionist said they’d had a cancellation and asked if I could be there in two hours. After an immediate panic attack I agreed.

Since it was a first visit and there we no records for me from anywhere else (because I had asked the other dentist office that took over my dentist’s account and was told they’d have to do a search for them), the hygienist, named Laurie, took 18 images; that was a first for me as I’d only had 4 taken at other times. Even though I think x-rays of teeth are the ugliest things possible, it was amazing that the images were immediate and shown on a monitor above me; no film anymore.

Then it was time for the quick exam by the hygienist, followed by a cleaning. Even that technology had improved from what I was used to, as this office used a combination of a waterpik-like contraption along with a type of hook we’re all used to to minimize the potential pain and the blood; that wasn’t bad either. Then Dr. Sutherland-Pollard came in and greeted me (we often see each other in Wegmans) and she proceeded to tell me what I needed to have done… and it turned out to be more than just the two broken teeth. I asked her about that and she told me that old fillings should be replaced every 5 to 7 years because decay can grow around them and once that starts then there’s probably decay underneath also; I never knew that.

Once we were done with that I went back to the receptionist to make an appointment to have some fillings taken care of, especially my worst broken tooth… and she booked me for 2 days afterwards; yeow! Once again I had moments of panic, thinking that I would have at least 2 or 3 weeks to get used to the idea, but I went ahead and jumped on it.

Two days later I went back to get what I thought was going to be one filling taken care of. I sat in the chair waiting for the intense pain to come; luckily, it never did. I only had one real moment of pain, and it was very short. I’m not sure what she did, but the only pain came from the needle prick and the first push to get it a little deeper… that was it. While waiting for me to get numb, she said there were actually two cavities on that side and said that she’d take care of the first one and then ask if I wanted her to work on the second.

IMG_20160411_160308_resizedWhile she was cleaning out the first tooth, which included having to remove a small piece of filling that had remained when that tooth broke, she found that the tooth next to it, which had a filling, also had a lot of decay. While taking a brief break after working on the first tooth (it needed some serious work but luckily only a filling) she asked me what I wanted to do, and I decided to go ahead and work on the tooth next to it and that we’d work on the other tooth at a later time.

That was that. The entire process did take close to 2 hours, but a lot of that was waiting for the anesthetic to work on my gums, as it always takes a while for it to work on me. The work turned out to be wonderful; I had only that brief bit of pain with the needle, and I didn’t have any pain on that tooth the next day either; can you imagine that?

The major thing she did for me was talk to me and to keep telling me to breathe, saying that the majority of us stop breathing which adds to the tension, and when we’re tense we feel pain even more. That was a common thread during the entire process, making sure I kept breathing, and it seems to have worked. Her assistant Margie kept me company while waiting for the anesthesia to take hold and was ever present throughout the entire event (I almost said “ordeal” but it was better than expected lol).

That’s my experience with Smile Design, and knowing what my fears have been like all these decades, I have to say that for having a filling done, this was the most pleasant experience I’ve ever had. Would I recommend it… of course I would! And no, I’m not getting paid for this… and my teeth are now taken care of; yay! 🙂

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