Friday, 11 June 2010

Say "Aarrrrrgggh!"

Two months ago, I broke my pledge to never ever ever ever go to the dentist ever ever ever again. I endured a niggling toothache for a month before deciding the cosmos wanted to punish me by sending me back to that torturous cavern of unimaginable oral horrors.

Signing up at a local practice – its front entrance lurking along a Möbius strip of faux-gothic leafiness in one of Blackford’s endless procession of Georgian demi-mansions – I arrived for my first check-up in five years. Having been young and reckless, indulging in a hedonistic half-decade of fastfood gluttage, fizzy-foam gluggage, and potato snack munchage, my poor mouth had been left an eroding husk of whole-holed tooth rot.

Oh, I brushed daily, sure, but with the automatic sloppiness of the morning wash or the late-night piddle. As I sat on the chair, having beforehand imagined Boschian visions of mouth-based hellishness, the dentist rolled off a list of dental catastrophies occurring in ma mooth. Lower quadrant screwed. Palatal cleft buggered. My teeth were crumbling castles of ruinous disrepute, and I would require last-ditch refurbishment.

That afternoon, my problem tooth was extracted (goodbye, top left molar!) and donated to struggling piano manufacturers or elephants seeking cheap bling. The true horrors, however, were to come a few weeks later – I required FILLINGS. Please – no fainting.

Contrary to what those brave-idiots-who-feel-no-pain-ever tell you about having fillings put in, the process is infinite torture. And I speak as someone whose childhood was dogged by brace moulds – two thick slabs of viscous gelatin shoved into the gub, leaving a 0.1 inch gap in which to breathe – endless extractions, abscess-lancing and assorted shavings and scrapings. These, my shiny-toothed friends, are nothing compared to the filling.

The process begins with a pinkie-sized needle rammed into the gums, whereupon a light dose of novocaine numbs the mouth to the extent pain is still felt, but not as severely. Thanks. Next, your mouth is held open with metallic clamps as the hygienist skooshes slushy paste through a suction device around your teeth for about TEN MINUTES. Then the drills emerge. Is it any wonder I can’t watch Marathon Man without weeping?

The drill whirrs and buzzes around the treated tooth, tingling at the nerves or roots with a blood-curdling razor-zzzz. Fears about the dentist tend to revolve around the nerves being disturbed and the ensuing agonies piqued roots might bring . . . so the filling is YOUR WORSE NIGHTMARE. OK, I’m a wimp. Fine. I admit it. And my dentist is an artiste with that filling paste. But I will continue to cower in fear of the routine check-up.

From hence, I shall brush thrice a day and singe my gums off with acidic mouthwash. Anything to keep the woman who wields the drills at bay. Zzzzz-zzzz-zzzz! Oh, the horror!


  1. I can't believe I made it through this post. We've talked about this, so you know how afraid I am of dentists. Is it over for the time being?

    That said, you have inspired me. I'm going to make an appointment for a cleaning. Test the waters, sort of thing. I'm already starting to cry.

  2. Yes. It's over for six months. You have served your teeth well, so I'd go in for a routine check-up.

  3. I hate the smell of burning when the dentist drills, even if you are outside and it is from someone else's teeth.

    I'm afraid I must, must, recall my dental adventure.
    I had an impacted wisdom tooth. The Australian dentist chortled, "We'll soon have that out."
    He even took an x-ray first.
    Little sharp jab to numb the gum, f*'ing big jab to numb the jaw.
    He cut open the gum and shoved in the pliers.
    No joy after 15 minutes.
    "Right. we'll drill."
    No, WE didn't - he did.
    Twenty minutes later, "It's hurting." (Not said that clearly).
    More jabs. More drilling. Then he brought in the big guns - the chisels.
    And he failed! "Oops. didn't notice those hooks in the roots."
    He stitched the mess up, "Go to the Hospital when this heals, they'll use a general anaesthetic."

    Next day, I had eyes, nose and mouth painted onto the surface of a gigantic purple balloon - which used to be my face.

    Decades later, a clean, pure white chip of that tooth finally worked it's way out of my gum.

  4. P.S. When it healed, and after I came out of the hospital, they told me his hacking had stimulated fibroids, which they had to grind away. Guess who's face grew huge again?

  5. That is a horrible tale, Mike (though wittily told). I hope Malaysian dentists are more skilful. :)

  6. Thanks a lot, Mike! I'm going straight to hospital without passing go. They can put me under and take all four of my wisdom teeth.