An Ode to Nitrous Oxide…


Yup. I said it.  Not even gonna deny it.  Nitrous Oxide.  My mother’s little helper when she was off to the dentist. Thank goodness for the words of wisdom from a mother who spent over 20 years as an ER trauma nurse because that’s right folks, I’m in that small percentage of the population that’s absolutely terrified of receiving dental treatment. (It’s actually called Odontophobia.)

I’ve not always been afraid of the dentist.  As a matter of fact, up until my early twenties, I’d never even had a filling.  Then it happened: my first cavity. Soon after came one good Ali in the Jungle drill to an oral nerve and the rest was history. My fist shot up at the dentist with a counterpunch right-hook also causing him to cut the inside of my mouth with the aforementioned drill.  As his eyes bulged and hand shook in panic from my reaction, I then vowed to cut and run as soon as the appointment was over. I was done –  knocked out, and down for the count.

I was never going back.

Avoiding the dentist like the plague for several years following, I managed to cat myself up a tree which then led to a handful of root canals, onlays, and several fillings here and there as chump change.  “Fear can hold you prisoner,” said Andy Dufresne, in one of my all-time favorite films — The Shawshank Redemption. (Unless of course, you’ve decided to get by with a little help from a friend.)

“Two words, Kim: Nitrous Oxide…” my mother advised many years ago. “There’s absolutely no need to bear the pain of the drill or discomfort from dentistry. Ever.”

So I returned to the dental chair about two years ago to finally face the music.  The dentist I went to was one of the mothers from my son’s elementary school class. She was one of the “cool” moms – bitching just as loudly as I did regarding the homework assignments from a Nazi-esque 2nd grade teacher inflicting “red pen” aggression at not only the students but the parents too.  I felt I could be very upfront with her regarding my dental-phobia before moving on to what would most likely entail some sort of oral surgery after a tiny portion of tooth “crumbled” into the sandwich I was eating one afternoon. THIS CAN’T BE GOOD.  On the lam for nearly six years, she advised me to see a specialist to address what turned out to be three root canals.  It would be costly. But she guaranteed me I would be in good hands.

And then winked.

“Dr. Rick” was beautiful specimen of a man, 6’5 at least, (I believe he played volleyball or something in college) and still held a fit-physique at somewhere in his mid-thirties. He was a charmer indeed, comical (which for me is key), and touted as an extremely skilled Endodontist on the Westside.  (I’m just going to remind everyone that there’s a reason Grey’s Anatomy lasted so long with Dr. Shepherd “McDreamy” and Dr. Sloan “McSteamy” securing ratings for the show season after season.) The way I see it, it doesn’t hurt to have an attractive dude at the helm as you swan-dive into your deepest fears of dental treatment.

As an aside, let’s just say, I knew that nitrous oxide, (or “Laughing Gas”), was also used recreationally in certain circles, among certain college students, (only on a couple of occasions!), who may have attended Berkeley and will remain nameless. My visits with Dr. Rick would be broken up into two sessions so I knew going in that previous research would assist with being able to discern and communicate that appropriate “turning of the tank-dial” would be detrimental to my return for the second appointment.

Fast forward mid-way through the first session, and I remember thinking that proposing to this man and advising his hygienist to keep her calendar open as my maid of honor was a perfectly legitimate request.  I even told them so. They both laughed. We all laughed. I was somehow having fun while enduring root canals. As a result, I will firmly attest that there’s something especially sacred about laughing gas done right when needed to confront and slay the proverbial dental dragon.

So this past week as I’m in my final days of wrapping up a life in Los Angeles, I needed to make my way to the regular dentist before leaving the country.  My visit this time would include nearly 45 minutes of deep cleaning in the “upper and lower quadrants” of the left side of my mouth. No problemo. Bring it on and be sure to CRANK THE TANK.

During this last jaunt with laughing gas, I confidently added having coffee with a favorite author, Tom Perotta to my bucket list, along with successfully golfing with my soon-to-be-husband at Augusta National. Hey, with nitrous oxide and the Holy Ghost on my side, I’m dreaming big because I shall not be moved by fear again.

…At least while in the dental chair.


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