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Continuing with my previous article regarding ‘Who is a Dentist’, I shall now share with you my experience when I visited a Dentist for the first time.

I must have been 8-9 years old, so many things are fuzzy but I clearly remember the pain I had which popped up out of nowhere! We had finished having dinner and watching something on our new ’21-inch colour tv’ (it was a big deal back then) and out of nowhere I had this discomfort in my upper jaw right side which quickly grew into a severe pain and all I felt like doing was squeezing the portion as tight as I could.

I kept yelling ‘It hurts! It hurts!’ So, my mum crushed some cloves and asked me to place it there. Gosh it was yucky in taste (and even today I filter my food for cloves, common spice in Indian food, cause the moment I get that taste, my brain zaps back to that day and the memory of that pain). Few minutes later the pain reduced but I still couldn’t sleep so I was given half tab of a pain-killer (one more yucky stuff after another) and soon I fell asleep.

In the morning I was fine and after breakfast my mum asked me to brush my teeth. ‘But I just brushed my teeth after waking up!’ was my reply. She said we were going to visit our dentist so I had to brush again so that he could see clearly and also not faint because of the breath. While I reluctantly brushed my teeth…again, I thought of the dentist and felt like a spider was creeping up my spine. ‘Wasn’t the pain last night enough that now I have to go through more?’ For the first time I wished it wasn’t Saturday and I could go to school instead.

Needless to say, I had to be dragged to the dental clinic and all I could think of was ‘injection’ and ‘pain’. The clinic was on the first floor of an old dilapidated building (like most buildings in my neighbourhood are…even today) and once we entered the clinic, there it was! The sight of everything spick and span, people in whites and the smell of clinics (spirit) and I knew what was coming…INJECTION!!!

Once we entered the room, I saw the doc..big and scary (looking back I feel he looked like a young Santa – chubby with a paunch and long black beard). I don’t remember what conversation my mum had with the doc as I was focused on crying, screaming, kicking my way out of that place. He was talking very politely which spooked me even more as if I was being cornered into a trap! His words were falling on deaf ears as I was screaming at the top of my voice, kicking as much as I could while my eyes were scanning him and the assistant so that I could spot the injection. I could not spot the needle but I did see my mum…more specifically ‘The Eyes’ which forced me to behave.

I do remember him ‘injecting’ me and feeling the prick but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the toothache I had the previous night. I don’t remember what happened thereafter probably because there was no pain and no fear. After he finished, my mum thanked him and made me thank him too, even though I did not want to. When she made the payment, I remember her paying 200 rupees and back then it was a big sum considering the humble background I come from.

After leaving, one side of my lip and nose felt fat and mouth tasted like cloves…again. I asked my mum ‘He injected me, hurt me, I am the one who suffered and we have to pay him? And that too so much!’ My mum smiled and replied, ‘Suffering was what had happened last night. Today it was treatment. I was there at both times so I know. He is the best dentist around here and he deserves every bit of it. The money will come back sooner or later but good health once gone, may or may not come back.’

It was probably that day that I understood the words ‘Health is Wealth’. I could always quantify wealth as how much money one had…a numerical value but I couldn’t quantify health and thus couldn’t compare it to wealth, to equate and see which was more and which was less.

I decided I will grow up and become a Dentist (one of the many professions) and everything I do will 100% painless.

Now that I am a dentist, I realised that never have I, or any healthcare professional, woken up thinking, ‘Today is a good day to inflict some pain’.

A good day to relieve pain… yes.

A good day to do a root canal treatment… yes.

A good day to make someone’s smile better…yes yes!

And even – A good day to make some money (especially when the rent and other bills are due).

But not once do we think of inflicting pain. And as the saying goes, pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. So, some day you may have pain, dental or otherwise, but how much you suffer is in your own hands.