Living Between the Lines

Oh to be an Amoeba…

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?

I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow


  • Andrea Carlisle

    You did some fine weaving here. I was right there with you (even though I didn’t really want to be in that chair). I should suggest that set-up to my dentist. All I ever get is the gas and some very old rock and roll that he likes. By the way, I’m now getting not one, not two, not three but four copies of each of your posts, so I’m going to unsubscribe from everything, then sign back up. Something has gone sideways and maybe that’ll fix it. I hope all’s well with your teeth and you’re not hurting too much. It will be over soon.

  • Debbie

    Hi Andrea, sorry about the number of emails you are getting – how strange. Yes, do unsubscribe and start again. That may cure the problem. Teeth are settling, thank you but it will be a while before I look at David Attenborough in the same light again! 🙂

  • John Cowton

    Gas and air have brought back memories from the ghosts of dentists past. I broke my nose in a road accident as a child, so didn’t automatically breathe in through my nose. As a consequence of this the dental nurse used to bring me round, during mid-extraction, to a semi-conscious state, so that she could prompt me to breathe in through my nose. Through very hazy refocusing eyes, and in a dreamlike state, all I could see was her head floating in mid air with no sight of a body saying “breathe in through your nose John, breathe in through your nose.”
    Glad those days are over. I still don’t like going to the dentist. When the pain is all over, then there is more to come at the receptionist desk settling up the bill.

  • Deborah Barker

    It’s a wonder any of us survived these treatments John isn’t it? You are right about the bill – “Do you want to pay it all now or just half and the rest after your next appointment?” the receptionist asked yesterday as I staggered out. I opted for half – I mean, makes no difference really but it’s the principal of the thing…

  • patricia60

    My first dentist was an alcoholic and he damaged my teeth so horribly. I have been used as an example at my University’s Dental School. When my father was told one of my teeth was dead – my father took pliers and pulled it out.
    This past January I fractured my jaw and tore ligaments off my right elbow. I had to have bone grafts in my jaw and an implant post inserted. 2 surgeries later, I got a huge yeast infection from the antibiotics and have been so sick for the last 24 days, I have hardly left home. I am sure I have slept 75% of August so far. Now my teeth will not mesh enough to chew properly and I still have the implant crown to go…. 2 of my front teeth died in June and they have improved root canals so much and with a bit of bleach my front teeth are stunning.

    My brother, sister, and mum all have their own teeth and almost no cavities and my father was the same except he lost 4 teeth during WWII…
    I take care of my teeth like a trouper and yet they fail me….again and again

    I have been on pureed foods for 7 months… I am having lobster and champagne for my 65th birthday no matter what…. and not blended!

    Good luck to you…keep brushing and flossing….and enjoy a tip of the glass… I can not believe how amazing the dentist visit is now – and how expensive. Lucky I had $8K in my retirement fund for 2014!!! My Naturopath goes to Cuba for her dental work…

    to your teeth! Cheers

    • Debbie

      Pliers? Oh no! Ouch! You have certainly had your “fill” (excuse the pun) Patricia. My dentist once told me I had done very well considering the teeth I had been given…I wasn’t sure how to take that. I wish you well 🙂

  • Teresa

    My first dentist was a woman whose hand slipped while drilling my tooth and drilled into my mouth. On another occasion she let something start sliding down my throat so I though I would choke. When I got hysterical, thinking I was going to die, she told my mum never to take me back – boy was I relieved!! I went to the school dentist after that who everyone said was a monster, but he was lovely, thank goodness.
    The overhead screen is a good idea – I think!
    Hope you’re not too sore x

  • Hilary

    Hi Debbie … we had the son of my grandmother’s dentist – so needed to go to London (by Harrods as it happened) to see our dentist … my brother used him til he retired. I’ve had a few dentists – but haven’t been traumatised and so trust them – mine here does me very well.

    I remember the sick bit too … but don’t remember dreaming … and we have a poster, not a video screen – but all things trickle on – I suspect that may occur at some stage. I shut my eyes and assume all will be well (hope for the best … it usually is fine – somewhat uncomfortable at times) … I don’t have injections either – prefer to have a normal mouth …

    What a funny story … and I’m glad the next appointment will be shorter – one is encouraged to return! My next visit is in a month … he’ll brighten me up!

    Cheers Hilary

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