Recently I needed a filling at the dentist for a wee little cavity. The dental assistant offered nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas. I politely declined. The dental assistant assured me that I'd be able to drive myself home, but still I said, "no thanks." She looked puzzled.
I answered that I had a weird reaction to nitrous oxide as an eight year old child. The dental assistant asked if the experience made me scared of dentists. No, just wary of having nitrous oxide ever again. I kept my explanation brief and polite. I got my filling without incident and without pain.
Here's the full, dramatic tale of how my bad nitrous trip went down at the tender age of eight. Up to that point, my trips to the dentist had been fine and dandy. No cavities, and rewarded with a sugar-free lollipop for my troubles. BUT, at age eight, I had my first cavity. To hear my mother tell it, this cavity was a doozy of dental decay, almost a root canal. Mom shrieked at me most shrilly about my terrible failure to properly care for my teeth. She warned me this filling would be painful and awful. I cried and apologized to my mom. I was such a little people-pleaser, and hated to disappoint people. I worked myself up into an anxious, fearful state on the way to the dentist. My mom and I were both red-faced hot messes upon arrival.
At the dentist, I remember them putting the little mask on my face to give me the laughing gas, then my memory gets really fuzzy, with just scary glimpses. The first glimpse featured the dentist and dental hygienist both imploring me to keep my mouth open. The edges of my field of vision were fuzzy like television static. The next glimpse had the hygienist trying to keep my mouth pried open with her fingers as the dentist hissed at her angrily. The next glimpse showed my mom trying to drag my limp weight to the car. The next glimpse I awoke in the back of our car alone and cold in our closed garage, too exhausted and loopy to get myself out of the car and into the house. I'm told that my dad had to lift me out of the car and carry me up to my room after he got home from work. I slept through the night with no dinner and no bath. I slept through my alarm the next morning and through my parents' attempts to get me up for school. The next afternoon, I finally stumbled myself to the bathroom and vomited bile. That's all I remember.
I did not get another cavity for twenty two years.
I'm not scared of my current dentist. The older male dentist tells silly dad jokes. The younger female dentist and I talk about books and fashion. The hygienists and assistants there are all really nice. They offer hot neck wraps. A massage therapist makes the rounds giving hand massages to patients while we get our teeth checked and cleaned. The lobby is decorated in a bold late 1990s style featuring lots of purple and clashing jewel-tones. Easy-listening music plays out of the speakers. No drama there.
Still, I always refuse the nitrous oxide.