Just a dental check-up, thanks

And the fostering of my banana trauma

Photo by Enis Yavuz on Unsplash

The suction tool hung off the corner of my mouth like a kindergartner’s Christmas ornament, making it difficult to object to the smell of the fluoride paste about to be slathered on my teeth.

Bananas permeated. It was unmistakable and putrid.

I remember the last time I ate a banana, or at least there is a version of my memory that may or may not be accurate. I was sitting in the backseat of the car, there were definitely tears of objection.

“It’s the last one you ever have to eat,” my mom said from the front seat.

We had just left the doctor’s office and whatever reason I had been prescribed a banana a day had been resolved.

A quick Google search (since my mom is off camping and not sitting by her phone awaiting random questions from diagnoses that happened over 40 years ago) revealed that it was believed to help several digestive issues, as well as scurvy. I’m going with scurvy — that little blue pool I used to share with my cousin was a dangerous pirate swamp.

Photo by Berkin Üregen on Unsplash

Interestingly, WebMD reports that there is no real medical validity that a prescription of bananas is an effective cure for much of anything. And if you cannot trust a site that advises your stubbed toe is likely cancer, then who can you trust on the internet?

But it is always the memory of a young me — maybe 4 or 5 — floating around un-tethered in the backseat as we wound around the roads of northern Michigan that pops up. This time, I do my best to not throw up on my dentist. She just cleaned my teeth, and I’d hate for her to have to start over.

I think about an oat milk latte. As if she can hear my thoughts, the dentist mentions something about waiting to eat or drink for 10 minutes. Her voice is hoarse through her mask.

She assured me it was not COVID and that she had a negative test earlier in the day. This was not reassuring as she poked around in my mouth.

With all the advancements in technology, why do dental tools still look and feel like medieval torture devices?

The last time I was in the chair, the fluoride had a sickly sweet strawberry scent. It was still gross, but I’d take it over banana any day. It was also taking forever as she kept stopping to instruct her assistant on various dental and seemingly non-dental issues.

I was focusing pretty hard and I don’t speak it so I’m not certain but I’m pretty sure she also said this banana stuff was disgusting in Russian.

While the smell of banana hung just under my nose, the fluoride was creating a definite “-ide” taste in my mouth. Fortunately, the oat milk latte reward was just a slight detour on the way home. I could imagine it melting away the fluoride residue and clearing out the smell. It’s always worked in the past.

It used to be that even being in the room with bananas would make me physically ill. Accidentally getting something banana-flavored would cause me to gag. I’d be back in the car squaring off the last banana ever with tears as the horror that what I thought was vanilla pudding was not.

This is also why I’m sure it was scurvy-related. How could something that made me so sick possibly be used to cure something digestive?

I wondered if this was why people were terrified of going to the dentist — terrible flashbacks to fruit-induced childhood trauma?

I never had a dental phobia. The eye doctor has always been my nemesis. But the fruit-scented fluorides and toothpaste, then everything flushed with minty spiked water was a good enough reason.

The latte was gone but the remaining banana-ide flavor held on. It made everything taste like bitter chemicals. It was time for serious medicine and so I stopped on my way out to get a Diet Coke. But even the corrosive carbonation barely washed it away.

Later that evening I could still taste the remnants hanging on — even after a vodka drink.

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Nikki Barr

Nikki Barr

Normal human in an extraordinaire world. Memoir / Humor / Just Life