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Learning to become an adult in dental matters

I have been surrounded by raging forest fires, waded through icy, waist-deep, flood waters, splashed through six-inch deep pools of gasoline after a fuel tanker overturned, and spent three hours in a very small room with Charlie Manson, all without so much as a fearful blink of my eye, but a sweet gentle man named Dale scares me to death.I've known Dale, and his lovely wife, since he was a university student. We've watched each other's children grow up and play together, and the only time I've ever seen the man exhibit any aggression is on the basketball court. Dale has really pointy elbows, but it is not his basketball playing that frightens me.Honestly, i love and respect Dale. He has been my bishop and until recently my stake president, but it is his profession that frankly terrifies me. Dale is my dentist.It's not that he is anything but a consummate professional. He clearly has mastered all aspects of his chosen profession.Simply stated, it is his title "dentist" that scares me.There is nothing rational, reasonable or even adult about my fears, but I hear that drill crank up and I go rigid with terror.As a practical matter my fears, and reason for them, have more to do with my inaction than anything Dale does.A rational adult visits his or her dentist a couple of times a year.The dentist checks things out, does a cleaning, maybe even has to fill a small cavity. Nothing ever gets out of hand because everything is caught early, but see, I'm not that much of an adult.I tend to hide from Dale in his professional capacity until something in my mouth hurts, and it has to hurt more than I want to admit before the pain in my mouth overcomes the irrational fear in my head. About two months ago, my mouth convinced me that I needed to see Dale. I told my dear bride, the saintly Susan, of my situation and she lovingly kicked me into action.While I can act very childish on this topic, the allegedly grown-up side of my personality understands that dental work and parking tickets have something in common. The longer you ignore them, the more costly and painful they become.Every member of Dale's staff has been nothing but wonderful to me. His receptionist, Angela, always greets me like a long-lost relative, probably a grandfather, because she is really young.Linda, Dale's dental assistant, chats with me in an utterly hopeless attempt to keep me calm.To his credit, Dale never said, "You know, if you would get your cowardly self in here more often this would be easier on both of us!"In fact, when I first came back, he just smiled, shook my hand, X-rayed my head, and cranked up that drill.The necessary work has been massive. A good proportion of teeth in my mouth are more realistically Dale's, because he has pretty much made them.Also, through no fault of Dale's, there has been some pain associated with the current effort.During one visit, I said Dale should load me with enough anesthetic to put my ear to sleep. I thought I was making a joke until my left ear started to go numb. Dale explained that a nerve that keeps track of my mouth also has a branch that goes to my ear. Who knew?This round of repairs is just about finished, and then I'm going to commit myself to see him twice a year, no matter how scary the idea is.