I was at the dentist1 last week. And last year, last decade, last millennium – I’m no dental spring chicken. As I laid there, tripping on nitrous oxide gas, I considered how remarkable the progress from my first to last visit was.

It must have been the early 80s when I first set foot in a dentist’s office as a child in Brazil. Not being the patient, I had a chance to peruse the instruments on display and observe how Dr. Lindomar used his bare hands to take apparatus out of the sterilisation oven that should’ve been hot enough to kill germs. I also remember vividly how my mother used to complain about the fillings falling off practically as soon as one left his office.

During that visit, before leaving, I was indulged by the good doctor as he gave me a glimpse into his profession. At the time I thought that some of the instruments on display didn’t look like something a dentist would need and he explained to me how a bad tooth could affect pretty much any part of your body. I was fascinated. Today I know for sure those weren’t dentist tools because in the next 30 years I did not see a single one of them again in the same setting.

Back to last week, laying down on an ergonomic dentist chair, I stared at a TV on the ceiling as the doctor explained the day’s procedure. The assistant gently – almost motherly – tapped my shoulder to distract me from the needle numbing my sinuses and instructed me to take deep breaths of N₂O to help me relax. There was no need for further relaxation – the gel applied to my gums had completely numbed the injection area and the needle was encased on a vibrating gadget, completely eliminating the notion that any pricking was going on.

The treatment went on for a little longer than an hour and, when I was told it would all be over in a few more minutes, I believe I felt a little sad. After leaving I rushed to the pharmacy and paid peanuts for painkillers that people would have given a hand for a century ago, then went to my office and put in a thoroughly enjoyable, even if below average, day’s work.

It’s really quite something to be forty in 2019. I have lived through the stone age of computers and experienced changing from dread to pleasure when visiting the dentist.

(some people have asked me, so the Dentist I’m talking about is Dr. Rahimi)

Written by Thiago Figueiró at Spowtr