Of Dentists and Human Survival

Article excerpt

Who isn't afraid of a dentist? As a child shedding her milk teeth, I had to make regular trips to a lady dentist, the mother of one of my classmates. She had nimble fingers and I remember she once gave me a plaster figurine of Snow White, just to make visits to her place more pleasant, but nothing could ever have dispel the dread I felt.

According to my mother (the formidable Carmen Guerrero Nakpil), as a kid in grade school, she had to be dragged, with her older brothers and several cousins, in various stages of desolation, to the family dentist on Isaac Peral street (now United Nations Avenue) in Ermita. One of her bothers (she did not specify whether it was the ambassador or the doctor) always pretended to faint. A male cousin gained some notoriety for having slapped the dentist, overturning the medical instruments and running out of the clinic into the street. That was probably why he was sent to a correctional school. Mommy never saw him again until after the war when Tito Ruben was a smiling, toothless landlord in Los Angeles (California).

My mother insists that I have been lucky with my permanent teeth as I never had cavities until I was in my twenties, while she has piled up a record of pain, loss, and misfortune under the care of more dentists than she can remember. …