As I walk about this world, whenever I come across a building out of whichterrible screams of agony can be heard, I generally think one of two things:1. That I’ve stumbled across yet another undocumented portal to Hell.

  1. That I have discovered yet another dentist’s office. So far, every building out of which blood-curdling screams emanatehas turned out to be a dentist’s office (quite obviously, I’m side steppingthe great and troubling philosophical question of whether or not gateways toHell and dentists’ offices are really that dissimilar in either form orfunction). Growing up, I spent more time in agony because a dentistwas “taking care of me” than I did from all other sicknesses andcatastrophes combined. Between braces, fillings, retainers, and thelike, my childhood dentist earned a first-ballot election into my ownpersonal Hell of Fame. As such, it isn’t terribly surprising that Igenerally try to avoid dentists, dentistry, dental products, and all otherthings dental. Today I had to see a local dentist to get a couple ofcavities filled. As you might expect, I spent the morning making surethat all of my affairs were in order before heading over the HellMouth, Imean, dentist’s office. Once I got to the office, the dentist and hisassistant wasted no time and got right to work. First, they applied atopical anesthetic to my gums before injecting the novacaine (or lidocaine,whichever is in vogue this year) into my gums. My childhood dentistalways made sure this hurt as much as possible, and he routinely injected a gallon or soof novacaine into my face so that I’d have a numb cheek, gum, and lip forapproximately six to eight weeks. I’m pretty sure his philosophy wasthat if one shot of novacaine was good, ten was an order of magnitudebetter. While the dentist and his assistant were waiting for thenovacaine to kick in today, the dentist cleaned my teeth using some sort ofultra-sonic device (no scraping!). Once this was done, he moved rightinto the drilling portion of the event. This took a couple ofminutes. Then, it was time to place the amalgam in the teeth, form it,scrape it, and let it dry. Once that was done, the dentist buffed therest of my teeth, and I was on my way. I was back inside my housealmost exactly one-hour after I left. The novacaine was actuallystarting to wear off as I was leaving the office; my cheek and lips nevergot numb. Even now, eleven hours after the dentist finished, my teethdon’t hurt at all. All in all, this sort of pain-free dentistry is anew and different sort of thing. In fact, this sort of dentistry couldactually catch on. Wouldn’t that be a scary thing?