I don’t like the dentist. It’s not personal. It’s not the person after all but their job. Though why they’d want a job like that I don’t know, hated by everyone, torturing poor innocent people day in, day out. Maybe the Inquisition isn’t recruiting at the moment. In a moment of reckless abandon, I might even venture to say that I like my dentist. She’s competent. I value competency.
I used to see a dentist at another surgery. They went private. Which meant (other than paying an obscene amount of money monthly to be part of this happy club) painting the waiting room dirty mauve, getting rid of all the children’s toys and decent magazines and installing silly little too-narrow perches of seats and fancy lifestyle magazines for those who hunt and have jolly tea parties. Not me. He had modern (and not brilliantly done, if I say so myself) black and white canvases of his beatific (apparently, if I say so myself) offspring on the walls of his surgery and smoker’s breath and hands.
Back in the days when we used to work, we used to have to make an 8 am appointment. He’d wander in at quarter past then saunter around, chatting with the receptionist and making his coffee. If he saw us by half past then we were doing well.
We’d troop in to see him and my husband who has spectacularly good oral health would be told to make an appointment with the hygienist, me with the genetically poor teeth never saw the hygienist once. My mother takes my poor oral health as a personal insult and act of deliberate rebellion on my part, she looked after my teeth so carefully when I was little! She fails to appreciate that my molars were doomed from conception by genes. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do or don’t do. I certainly don’t generate fillings as an act of revenge or mud-fling against her maternal skills.
My patience with this idiot dentist was finally snapped when one day he profoundly informed me that it seemed like my teeth had suffered ‘a recent trauma’. No, they hadn’t been in a car crash. Neither had I. I would have noticed. I drily informed him that as my notes and I had told him at each appointment I had sensitive teeth and gums, that this was probably due to me having brushed my teeth before the dental appointment.
He suggested that I skip brushing my teeth for the next few days until they healed.
I kid you not.
And what was I suppose to the next time I brushed my teeth after that? Skip a few more days then repeat the cycle endlessly?
For a variety of reasons, we now have a new dentist. On the healthcare system. We had a brief interlude with another one, one or maybe two appointments who was OK, a million times better than the previous one. But now we have my dentist. Or ours technically.
She has spent the last year or two replacing all the shiny, posh white fillings that the old dentist put in. Because they were already falling out and hurting badly. And catching up with all the new ones that I’ve been making too. She put a temporary filling in back in September and that’s lasting better than one the fancy permanent ones by idiot dentist.
I’m also making a conscious effort not to tuck my cough sweets down one side of my mouth. Ahem.
But visits to the dentist all start the same way. I am like the dog who goes to the vet with his tail between his legs, ears flattened. He knows where he’s going and what is going to happen to him. Only I don’t wee on the flowerpot by the door. Honestly.
I am a little regressive at the dentist perhaps. I know that only terror awaits. And pain. I can cope with pain but not the fear of pain.
I am accompanied by my husband because it’s easier than calling us one at a time (double appointments because I’m just too scatty to cope with any other system) and because I’m a little wary in appointments about hearing correctly (the ears have improved that score and now I wear contacts, they can’t nick my glasses (which also affects my hearing)). I go in with the husband because I don’t trust him to remember anything useful and which needs remembering. He doesn’t trust himself either.
I sit very small in the chair, my boots or sandals sticking up awkwardly, the head rest somewhere above my head, head cocked and eyes wary.
Idiot dentist was a great believer in counting teeth. He counted every teeth with a chant that bordered on the religious. You’d have thought I’d notice if I’d lost a tooth somewhere in between the six month appointments. Apparently not.
This dentist doesn’t count. Presumably my teeth don’t need roll call after all. She inspects.
The decision is made that I need another filling. This happens every appointment. Sometimes more than one at a time too.
I have to come back in a week for the execution. It’s so I can have this hanging over my head for at least seven days, a looming threat. Death row.
I came back, more wary, even smaller, even more regressive.
She makes the fatal mistake of asking if I want an injection. Now I might not like pain but injections rank worse. That September appointment I had three fillings needing doing, one of which needed completely drilling out before the filling.
She kept asking me if it was hurting.
I skilfully avoided the question and concentrated on the fascinating poster of puppies high up on the ceiling. How many are white? How many have blue labels? How many begin with a vowel? How many are terriers?
My husband was looking at me very suspiciously.
He’s probably better at reading my body language than the dentist was.
She somehow believed that patients would own up to the pain.
She’d forgotten that I had two small fillings done six months previously with no injection either.
It was the kind of pain that would have you screaming out loud if you weren’t quite so phobic about the injection. I curled my toes some more, clenched my fists and pulled discreet strange faces.
The dentist eventually got suspicious.
I’m fine means I don’t want an injection not I’m not in pain.
She clicked eventually.
And shot me with like a half-dozen needles, of increasing size, until I lost all sensation.
I wasn’t happy about that either.
It’s a very strange thing not being able to feel the lower half of one’s face. One’s tongue wants to do all sorts of crazy things.
What’s even stranger is when your face starts coming back. You get the oddest tingles in the oddest place.
I had a six month check up about a month ago. I didn’t need a single filling.
That’s what miracles and a competent dentist do.
We got demoted to annual appointments. Or should that be promoted? I didn’t know you could see your dentist less often. My mother raised me that six months was the Law. I don’t mind seeing the dentist less often though.
The downside is that temporary filling I mentioned having done back in September? Well, that was to placate a wisdom tooth until they could get me an appointment at the hospital.
One word: extraction.
That’s tomorrow’s treat.
PS. I asked my new dentist about the whole should I brush my teeth if it causes them ‘trauma’ thing (my gums bleed badly), her response? Brush them, they’ll toughen up.
PPS. If I’m still alive tomorrow afternoon, I’ll share some more bird photos. Promise. But I might not be. You know, coz.