Tick Tock, Tick Tock

Tick TockCopyright-Ted Strutz

by Nan Claire Falkner

I was 11 years old, sitting in the dental office waiting for my last turn of torture. The clock shouted to me: “You’re next, you’re Next, YOU’RE NEXT!”

Dr. Nams had gone to school with my parents. She was an excellent dentist – with one exception: She didn’t use novocaine. White lightning, excruciating pain took over my body. Every tooth in my mouth had fillings. I had been at Dr. Nams’ office every Saturday for a year.

Before I left the office, she said “You get your braces next week!”

“Oh, three more years?” I whispered, tearing.

“We’ll see dear!”


77 thoughts on “Tick Tock, Tick Tock

  1. Dear Nan,

    i sincerely hope this isn’t a true story. White lightning…that was a powerfully cringing description.

    One nitpick that can save you a word. Novocaine. One word.



    • When I typed it in, that’s what the dictionary said but I’ve seen it written on the side of a bottle enough to know that wasn’t right. Thanks for catching it Rochelle! I’ve had 10 root canals, too. Loosely based on the clock in the waiting room. Mike says if I was horse I would be glue by now! Have a great week!

      • A very relevant picture prompt, as I have scheduled a dentist appointment next Monday. Your ticking clock and the absence of novocaine make me want to reschedule 🙂 Very effective story telling!

        Greetings from Greece!
        Maria (MM Jaye)

  2. Nan, Good story based on reality. I know what you’re talking about. I went for 12 years to a child’s dentist who didn’t use Novocaine. I read years later that it can be a bit hard on the body. Maybe that was why. Some dentists don’t like to use it unless it’s necessary. I had a lot of fillings also as it was before they put floride in the toothpaste. The drills were slower in those days also. 😦 I’ve had a root canal, but the dentist did laser surgery. Well written. 🙂 —Susan

    • Thank you Susan! Dental work is torture if it’s on a nerve. When I got married, I switched dentists – well we did live in another town then. Thanks for stopping by! Nan 🙂

    • Dear Bjorn, You don’t think about your teeth much until they hurt – then WHAM, You are sitting in a dentist office and can hear that high pitch shrill of the water drill (works the fastest but hurts the worst, I think). Your next thought is “How do I get out of here without being noticed – Ah – the bathroom excuse. Not any fun is it Bjorn? No relief on a root canal? You win for the worst tortured soul! Ouch, just the thought makes me weak in the head! Yeow!

  3. I can totally relate, just having gone through a few years of dental work…mostly crowns…with a couple of root canals thrown in for fun. It was just as bad when I was young and had a lot of cavities which needed new fillings. Thankfully, I can afford a dentist with more finesse. As an impoverished youngster, my mom could only afford $5 on time payment to an ex-military dentist. I had to grin and bear the pain. We do what we gotta do…

    • Dear Hugmamma, Yes we do, and I did too – never griped to mother or daddy about the pain. When I got braces, I was happy (I had a front tooth that stuck out and the other front tooth went back.- literally, the kids called me “Stick out tooth!) So, when they could afford it, I got braces, has to have 2 teeth pulled and a bunch of cavities filled first. I brushed my teeth twice a day and Listerine (yuck). Thanks for stopping by, Nan 🙂

  4. That was true back in the day that a number of dentists didn’t use novocaine if they didn’t think it necessary, and I had one of them. I don’t think he got off on it though, but who knows? Hope you’re exaggerating somewhat here. OUCHHH!!!!

    • Dear Perry, Well – not really. Ouch is right – but I learned early that some people (my husband included) don’t have any cavities and some people can brush after every meal and still have bad teeth – genes play a role. Well, I’m impressed with your story – you did a great job! Nan 🙂

    • Dear David, She passed many years ago, but probably one of the worst moments in “the chair” was her Mama, who held the air gun and she’d (the dentist) would say “Mama . . . Air, Air.” She never married. She really was not sadistic at all was actually very kind-hearted! – she did good dental work, as many of my dentists over the years have commented. Those were the days, – “Don’t cry for me – I made it through. I smile a lot too! Thanks David. Nan 🙂

    • Dear Patrick, No fall out between parents. It was the early 60’s and in my hometown, there was not a lot of choices. She had a thriving business, but was very frugal. And she was a very nice person. Hey, I have straight teeth also! Thanks Patrick, for stopping by! Nan 🙂

  5. I’ve been lucky! Just a few cavities and wisdom teeth pulled. Good farm well water growing up seems to have helped according to one dentist! Good story. I too liked the clock imagery… nothing worse than waiting… for torture…

    • Dear El, I realized I didn’t answer your post – sorry – I wasn’t paying attention. Anyway, my husband and I and a clock sort of like hers, and when it’s wound up I always feel comfortable for some reason. I have clocks all over my house and now they seem to be saying “Not that much time left, let’s rap it up, Nan.” Maybe I am hearing voices in my head. But, thanks for the comment, I truly appreciate it!

      • Thanks Nan – I did wonder what was going on, but when you get into the swing of answering comments, it can all become a bit of a blur. I still love that clock, although if it’s starting to tell you time’s running out, maybe you need to take its batteries out!

    • Dear Dawn, I know this is supposed to be ‘fiction’ but I couldn’t resist it. The very first thing I thought about was “My trips to the Dentist” Hey, my twin had to do it too, so, Misery loves Company! We used to vie for the first position so you didn’t have to sit and listen to the clock with dread. Hey, I made it through – it sounds like torture, but she was such a nice older lady. I remember changing dentists, after we got married and thinking – hey – this ‘shot’ thing is great!’ Have a good week Dawn! Nan 🙂

    • Dear Joanna, Thank you for your comments, it seems so long ago now (and it really was). Pain is one of those things that evaporate from the front of your brain once it is over. I even thought about that clock during the visits, and it was somewhat soothing to me. Maybe I hypnotized myself. Who knows? Have a good week. Nan 🙂

  6. I needed braces too but I was too scared to go to a dentist. your story makes me feel glad that I didn’t. Now I am the one with crooked smile 😉

    • Dear Dusky, I really wanted braces, but the only way to get there was to fix the bad teeth and pull two others. The kids at school called me “Stick out Tooth!” So, I had a good incentive to get braces. Thanks! Nan:)

    • Dear Kalpana, When I had them, there was a band that went all the way around each tooth. Now they cement the brace on the front of the truth so there isn’t the pain of trying to make space for the bands! Well, thanks for stopping by! Nan 🙂

  7. “Make every word count” – and you did! I got chills reading this. White lightening – I agree with the others – that’s a great turn-of-phrase.

    • Dear Amy, thank you very much. Just for that exact instant when she would drill on or near the nerve – E-gads that hurt! Very nice person though! Thanks for reading! Nan 🙂

  8. Of all the terrifying stories I’ve read this week, Nan, this one rang the most true to me and therefore the most terrifying. I remember weekly visits to the orthodontist throughout middle school–such pain! I agree that your use of the clock added an element of suspense. Well done.

    All my best,
    Marie Gail

    • Dear Marie Gail, Thank you so much for your kind words. I think your writing is much better than mine – but I guess, every once in a while, I do hit a ‘nerve’ with someone on a story. I truly appreciate your kindness! Thanks again, Nan 🙂

      • Nan, Your story this week shines, and practicing as you read other, quality writers will keep your work improving. I think you are a fine writer, and I’ve noticed that you’ve been improving steadily as time goes on. Keep up the good work.


  9. My goodness, I could almost feel the pain in my mouth while reading this! I’m fortunate enough to have never undergone surgery without anestesia, but if I had to endure what she has, there’s no WAY I’d go back to that dentist. AND braces are a pain! Wonderful description throughout, it really brought me there with the poor girl. I really love that title! Awesome piece!

    • Twothirty, twothirty, toothirty, toothhurty, You are great Honie! I have been snickering ever since I read this. Very clever of you – this is a trick (and I will give you credit) to tell my grandchildren! Thanks for stopping by! Nan 🙂

  10. i cannot imagine major dental work without the sedatives. did i read it right that the white lightning was moonshine and that’s what went searing through her body? i know. i’m slow to pick up on things. i love your realistic story. could really empathize with your young character. 🙂

    • Dear Dear Sun, Well, you’re close. White lightening is alcohol (homemade moonshine and pretty strong at that!) and you can make it for your own consumption (I think) in the United States, but you cannot sell it. Also, white lightening can be the excruciating pain from a dentist drilling on a tooth without numbing the tooth first. Thanks for stopping by, Sun! Nan 🙂

  11. Oh dear. My dad use to fix my teeth without anesthesia. His reasoning: the shot often hurt worse than the drilling, which only lasted 60-120 seconds. I practiced relaxation and if I raised a hand, he would stop. Because my teeth were checked regularly, the fillings were generally small. I had novocaine for the wisdom teeth extractions 🙂 .
    Believe it or not, I love getting my teeth cleaned and don’t mind having them worked on, often doze in the chair.

  12. I’m beginning to think no Novocaine was standard practice. That white lightening really hits home the pain. I’m imagining (and hoping) braces caused less suffering.

    • Dear Sarah Ann, You are completely correct on both counts! My twin sister, Ann, and I both had bad teeth and both got braces at the same time – much, much, less painful! Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it! Nan 🙂

  13. Nan, What a realistic nightmare. We should know first hand. I still see the clocks and hear them. It
    is amazing that I love clocks and have them throughout my home. Ann

    • Dear Sis, Yes you’re right, We do know first hand about the dentist, no Novocaine, and the clocks. Every time I wind up Grandpa’s clock, I think of the dental pain. Thanks for surprising me and reading all my stories – you’re amazingly multi talented and BTSE too! (best twin sister ever) Nan Claire 🙂

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