Oh to have had the dental care in yesteryear that we enjoy today…
An hour and a quarter spent lying in the dentist’s chair, having pre-crown preparation and a pre-overlay done on the same day, is no fun.
It wasn’t as though there was anything wrong with my teeth in the first place. This was pre-emptive treatment. My dentist recommended it – especially as the teeth contained the old amalgam fillings that are so ugly when you look at them these days.
“You don’t want those fillings to fail, do you – you’ve had them a long time,” he said back in January, continuing with, “Our generation didn’t have it so lucky as today’s youngsters, with fluoride in the toothpaste, a perfect set of straight white teeth and hardly a filling to be seen and those that do exist so white they are not noticeable anyway.”
I had to agree, dentistry has come along way since I was a child, visiting the local dentist who just happened to be the resident police dentist. My father, a police sergeant, had a fear of all dentists and was determined that we children would not inherit it. If he was successful in his quest then it was no thanks to that dentist.
The first few times we went to the dentist were fine of course. Did we brush? Yes of course.
“All looks well, have a lollipop for being so good,” Yes, a sticky, sugary lollipop. Drumming up future business no doubt. (My own children were given badges).
Later visits were less enjoyable. As children’s teeth decayed, the dentist drilled and filled. I didn’t have too many fillings as a child, mostly because I had teeth taken out instead. Before you come to the conclusion that I had all removed, I should clarify. An abscess necessitated the removal of one and then another tooth.
The first was removed under gas and air, at the surgery, by my dentist. I dreamt of ghosts and ghouls. I rose sick and giddy from the chair and determined ‘never again’.
The second abscess saw me taken to the London Hospital as an emergency case. Oh, the memory of my father driving the nine-year-old me, round London because we arrived at lunchtime and no one was at the reception desk. Thinking to soothe me, my father drove round and round those narrow back streets with me lying on the back seat, feeling every bump and every jolt.
Once back at the hospital, I was seen swiftly. The offending tooth was removed, again under gas and air. I drifted off beneath the rubber mask and dreamt of weird and wonderful things. I woke to find myself cocooned in the ample bosom of a large, black nurse whose comforting embrace I never wanted to leave. Once home, I determined, ‘never again’. This time I meant it.
My eldest sister became a dental nurse and we all looked after our teeth. (Saying that brought back memories of Pam Ayres’s poem, “Oh I wish I’d looked after me teeth,”) I swapped dentists as soon as I was able. No more of my teeth were removed, save for a couple of wisdom teeth later on but some were filled over the years and when I got married, I had a gold crown fitted on a back tooth.
“That’ll last 25 years.” my then dentist told me with pride. He was right, in fact it has lasted far longer than that. Shame it is gold and not porcelain.
I admit I had been putting off this latest treatment “too busy —on holiday—not sure—”
So, today I bit the bullet, (better than the dentist’s finger – my nephew James, was reluctant to go back to the dentist recently,
“Why’s that James?” I asked.
“Because last time I was there I bit the Dentist’s finger,” he told me).
I tried not to do that.
I lay back in the chair and determined to let the dentist do his job while I watched the overhead, silent screening of David Attenborough’s ‘Planet Earth’.
As the drill whirred in my mouth, I watched Peregrine Falcons soar through clouds. As the water spray threatened to drown me, I followed the birds’ progress through wind and rain and watched as they came in to land.
As the dentist told me how the gloop they use to take impressions, is actually made from seaweed, I watched as hermit crabs side-stepped the world and slid beneath the sand. As the gloop threatened to make me gag and dentist and nurse hastened to check I was ok, I watched a dung beetle drag something horrible across a rock, centimetre by centimetre. David Attenborough came into view, aboard a yacht, sea spray soaking him. I was on that boat, the spray was enveloping me, the noise of the waves pounded in my ears…no wait, that was the drill and I needed a tissue — thank you.
A small rat burrowed his nose in the sand. I was vaguely aware that my nose felt numb.
“Not long now,” the dentist assured me, an hour into treatment. An amoeba bobbed around in the water above me and clung to a nearby rock. The force of the water was going to tear it away surely?
The last impression plate was tugged from my mouth, were my teeth still intact?
The amoeba was still there, hanging on, wobbling in the current.
The temporary crown and overlay were put in place; the job was done.
The credits rolled (how timely) and I was free to go.
“Your next appointment, to fit the permanent crown and overlay, will be much shorter,” the dentist assured me.
I am pleased but on reflection, I wont be asking them to run the Planet Earth film again, it is far too traumatic.
P.S. The anaesthetic is wearing off and things are beginning to hurt – hang on, where’s my own Planet Earth DVD?