Ok, so you’re looking at the title and thinking to yourself, “The Dentist?  Really?  A new experience?”.  Well, let me explain.

The challenge is that I have to have a new experience in Melbourne each week.  My grand plan this week was to head to the Moonlight Cinema, which is a movie played in the Botanical Gardens.  The whole family was going to be in on this week’s event on Saturday night, butwhen it rolled around Melbourne was blasted with the biggest hail storm to hit the city in many, many years.  Hail stones the size of up to tennis balls were reported and the city literally flooded, with the roof of at least two significant sites (Southern Cross Train Station and Etihad Stadium) falling in under the weight of the hail stones.

This left me with Sunday to do a new challenge and I was already rostered to work on Sunday. 

I had a decision to make.  Either I was to renege on my challenge and not complete a new experience this week, or I could simply look back on my week and see if I had inadvertently done something new.

As it turned out, I had actually had a couple of new experiences.  Visiting my friend at her new place of work was one.  Sounds innocent enough, but in the process of visiting her at her coffee shop, there ended up being something similar to a mother’s group spontaneously occur, as babies played together.  That was a great experience and one I hope to repeat on occasion.

My choice, however, is to highlight my visit to the dentist.

You see, the last time I went to the dentist was over seven years ago.  It was before I got married and I was having an issue that was concerning me.  The dentist I went to discovered that I had five wisdom teeth and recommended they be removed and, after their removal, a root canal would be required to fix my problem.  Well, I had my wisdom teeth removed in day surgery at a hospital.  This was followed by days of eating yogurt and ice cream with my face swollen, leaving me looking like a chipmunk.  It was awesome.

Following the wisdom teeth removal, I didn’t go back to the dentist.  It was the year of my wedding and between busyness, lack of funds and outright fear of the root canal, I felt quite content in my decision not to return. 

Fast forward to Saturday morning.  As the morning went on, my tongue noticed that one of my teeth didn’t feel right. After brushing and checking out the tooth in the mirror, I discovered that part of my tooth was actually coming away.  Not exactly a chip, but it was like my tooth just decided that there was too much tooth and this particular piece was no longer necessary.

In six-and-a-half years of marriage I have not been to the dentist, and certainly my nearly four years in Melbourne has been dentist-free.  Worse than seeing a dentist, though, is having a tooth begin to disintegrate in your mouth and eventually fall out all together.  I decided the dentist was the lesser of two evils and told Luke that this was the time… I was going to the dentist.


Thus begins my new adventure – to go to a dentist in Melbourne. 

Now, let me backtrack for a second.  It seems recently that a few of my friends have been heading off to the dentist.  Without fail, they all require lengthy procedures demanding multiple visits and excessive funds.  This is partly what scares me with the dentist.  Like getting a check up from the doctor, I really just don’t want to hear bad news and the thought of a long journey of expensive work terrifies me.  With my friends dropping like flies to this fate, it seemed inevitable that, after over a seven year absence and no root canal, my dental fate would be the same.

After much internet surfing and a few phone calls, I eventually settled on a dentist.  Strangely enough, it’s the dentist that my husband Luke has been to before.  Step one complete.  I have an appointment and it’s in just over an hour.

Now, for step two.   Actually going and coming face to face with the dentist and all their scary tools.  A million questions are running through my head.  Things like, “What will she find?”, “How many teeth have I lost without knowing about it?”, “What will bankruptcy by dental work feel like?”.

Arriving at the dental clinic, I’m confronted with a lengthy form to complete beginning innocently enough with the personal details section, then moving on to the more scary dental history.  “Name of previous dentist”…  um…. Don’t remember. 

Eventually, the moment arrives.  I tentatively rise from my chair, kissing Luke and Tyson as I bid them farewell.  Who knows how long I’ll be gone and what fate will face our family on my return.

As I walk into the room, I’m greeted by a kind looking woman who brightly says, “Hi, I’m Winnie.  What can we do for you today?”   Ah, a friendly dentist.  I relax immediately and take my place in, let’s face it, one of the best chairs ever invented.  Scared of the dentist I may be, but the chair you’ve gotta love!

She checks the tooth of concern and I’m pleased to note that she neither screams in disgust nor informs me that this will take a while.  I’m offered an anaesthetic for the work, which I accept.  As we wait for the anaesthetic to do its work, she offers me a full check.  My response was something along the lines of, “Um… I know I need it, but I don’t really want it, but yes, I guess it should be done, but…um… ok”.

As she checks my teeth, with an occasional scrape, she speaks a completely different language to the dental assistant.  It seems a random mix of letters and numbers and other words that I think indicate past fillings that I’ve received.

After checking my teeth, it’s time for the verdict.  I hold my breath.  Not metaphorically, but literally, I am holding my breath in fear of the words about to come out of her mouth.  What I’m expecting to hear is, “Well, it looks like you need a root canal.  Probably two or three actually.  If we’d got to the problem earlier, it would have saved a lot of work.  You really need to get to the dentist more often.  That’ll be $20,000 required today, thank you.”.

In my head, I’m fully aware of my years of eating a lot of sweets and never flossing.  I do consistently brush, though.  At least twice a day and then whenever I’m going out I brush again, just in case someone I meet in my outing leans in for a hello kiss. 

It’s time for the verdict and she says, “It all looks good.  We’ll give you an x-ray just to check between the teeth, but I think you should be right.”  The choir of angels begin to sing the Hallelujah Chorus and my breath releases in a sigh of relief.

Fifteen minutes and two x-rays later, my troubled tooth is fixed and I’m recommended only a check up as normal.  As I return to my family, my mouth still numb from the anaesthetic, the lopsided smile on my face couldn’t be wiped away.  Hours later, I was still boring Luke, regaling him with the tales of the victorious defeat of my fear of the dentist.

So, what did I learn from this experience?  I learnt that leaving your new experience for the week until the last night and depending on the weather isn’t a good idea.  I learnt that the habits you make when your parents invest in orthodontic work when you’re a child, pay off when you’re older.  I learnt that negative anticipation can prevent us doing things and, even though it turned out things were ok for me, not doing those regular check ups can have severe consequences.  And I learnt that sometimes a root canal isn’t necessary. 

All in all my “new” experience in Melbourne turned out to be a really positive event.  And, hey, if you need a good dentist, I know where you can find one!

 Cost:  $272

Emotional benefits: priceless