I had an important decision to make, and it wasn’t easy.

I had to choose between entering a cage full of hungry lions, or walking through the doors of my dentist’s office. Since I wasn’t able to locate any zookeepers who would allow me to fellowship with several voracious animals in their den, I had to default to the dental visit.

Please don’t get me wrong. I really, really like my dentist. He’s awesome, both on a professional and personal level. It’s just that I hate “visiting” him, or any dentist.

I’m a native Miltonian who grew up seldom going to the dentist. No one in our family partook of regularly scheduled, preventive office visits, and that was fine with me.

I loved and respected our family dentist. (He was our next-door neighbor on Plumb Street prior to moving a short distance away to Larch Lane.) However, I hated everything else about those dental visits, like the smells and the pain.

When I moved to Minnesota after marrying in 1970, the first dentist I visited asked if I wanted laughing gas or Novocaine before he started working on my decaying tooth. With a dumbfounded look I replied, “What?”

That lack of regular dental care had dire consequences for one of my siblings, who eventually ended up with 30-plus cavities later in life.

When my first husband and I moved from Iowa to Janesville in 1979, we needed to find a good dentist. Denny’s brother, Daryl, who was living in Janesville at the time, recommended his dentist, “Dr. Teeth.” He was compassionate as well as a skilled dentist. When Denny was killed in a plane crash in 1983, he didn’t charge one cent for Denny’s unpaid root canal bill.

Dr. Teeth’s growing business eventually led me to appointments with his business partner, “Dr. Tooth,” who remains my dentist today. (Dr. Teeth eventually retired.)

Thanks to my second husband’s wonderful insurance coverage, I’ve had dental insurance since our 2006 marriage. During my 26 years of widowhood, it often took me a few years to pay off individual dental bills, sending $25 a month. I was never pressured, even once, to pay my bills in full upfront.

My dental visit last week was to start work on a new crown. I wish I could say I chipped an old crown by accidentally biting down on an Alaskan king crab shell or the bone in a T-bone steak. But, alas, I was eating a tostada chip when a chunk of my tooth broke off. Bummer.

Years ago, I occasionally dreamed all my teeth crumbled and fell out of my mouth, which is one of the most common dreams, worldwide. According to “dream experts,” that can mean the dreamer is dealing with transition, insecurity, or loss.

I go back to Dr. Tooth in a few weeks to get my permanent new crown. Now that my mouth will house 10 crowns and counting, I think people should start addressing me as, “Your Majesty.” No bowing or curtsying will be necessary.

Leanne Lippincott-Wuerthele, a native of Milton, has been writing Sunny Side Up for about 40 years.

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