It's hard to distinguish which of the following is more uncomfortable: the sound of the drill whirring inside your mouth, the vibration buzzing deep into your jaw or the burning smell of a hot tooth being sanded away.
While most people wince at dental pain and cringe at the very idea of their regular check-up unveiling a cavity, I've found a simple Zenlike approach to the whole thing.
Just close your eyes, breathe and don't worry about it.
It sounds too easy, too simple and a bit condescending, but it really does work.
This method came to me during the removal of one of my wisdom teeth a few years ago.
As the day for the procedure grew closer, I found myself filled with nightmarish fantasies of a tooth being slowly and painfully pulled from my jaw. The images that filled my waking days were vivid, and worsened each time they were replayed.
When it came time to sit in the chair, a temporary fix was revealed to me: drugs. I was fed a drip of librium, a tank of nitrous gas and numbing cream for my gums before the needle gave my jaw the deep freeze.
Once all of that kicked in, and the cutting and pulling started, I discovered the real method to dental chair relaxation. While under the calming blanket of these painkillers and mood helpers I had the ability to think about what was going on, then simply ignore it.
I came to peace with the thing.
Another strategy is to think of dental work as external instead of internal. Don't equate it with organs and blood, but make it something closer to dermatology. After all, once Dr. Dentist Man cranks your mouth open full-bore, your teeth are pretty much on the outside of your body.
Think of the free toothbrush, paste and floss you'll get on your way out the door. You can take the money you would have spent on those things and buy some ice cream to set your teeth back to where they were before you had your last cleaning. It's a reward system that creates a dependency on what you fear and reward yourself for conquering!
There is one other option that I used to rely on before I found the Zen state that comforts me now. Try hard to be stoic so the dentist doesn't think you're a baby. Be self-conscious. Dentistry, like the rest of life, tends to reward those who are careful in presenting themselves to others.
Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or firstname.lastname@example.org .