I went to the dentist. Every time I go to the dentist (or more accurately, every time I leave the dentist) I think to myself “Why on earth when they had career advice day at school didn’t they say ‘son, be a dentist'”.
My dentist is at the top of a leafy residential Twickenham street. It would be unfair of me to name them but think of a small republic on the eastern Mediterranean just to the south of Syria and just to the north of Israel and you’d be close to finding their name.
Because they are in a residential street, parking is limited and those of us who are not residents are obliged to pay a fee for the pleasure of laying up our cars for half an hour or so. This is where the financial outlay starts. The parking meter is cunningly scaled in 1o minute slots at a ridiculously unconventional price per 10 minutes, it’s something like 47 pence for each slot. Of course the meter has no facility to provide change.
I play a little game as I enter the surgery. My little game is called “How much?” and it goes like this.
I’ve opened the door – That has cost me nothing.
I’ve spoken to the receptionist. That’s about £20. Now I can sit down and read one of the many (usually up to date) newspapers left around the place. That will be another tenner.
One thing that I have learned is to avoid making eye contact with the hygienists as they pass through reception. I don’t think it is my imagination that they have a heavier tread than the rest of the staff. You can hear them approaching, a heavy footfall and the eery electrical whisper of their dentistry gowns. They affix each waiting patient with a glare and should they catch your eye there is a knowing smile playing around their lips that you know means “I recognise you and because you don’t floss four times a day plus after each meal you are going to be in so much trouble when I have you strapped to my chair”. I tend to sit with my head bowed, engrossed in an newspaper article relating ten ways to avoid bloating during the menopause (or something similar).
A positive about the dentist is that they are nearly always running on time. An emissary arrived who cheerily called my name and led me (not by the hand, although I did feel the need for comfort) into the dentist’s chamber (I’m not convinced this is the correct term but it fits so well).
There are pictures all around the walls. I don’t understand this at all. I expect the dentist to be devoting her time to staring into my mouth, not being amused by prints of yachts sailing into sunny harbours. The patients obviously can’t see the bloody things because we are horizontal and staring at the ceiling. I can tell you exactly how many holes there are in the grid of the A/C unit in the roof of the dentistry chamber but not one of the artists of the pictures. I think the place would be better served by sticking the pictures on the ceiling (but that’s only my opinion).
The dentist said “So what can we do for you today?”. I always think there are two appropriate replies. Reply number one being something along the lines of “Fleece me for every penny I have” and reply number two being “You’re the bloody dentist and you made the appointment – you tell me”. I’ve never quite plucked up the courage to say either but one day…
The dentist did know exactly what she wanted to do to me today. Inflict pain and misery. Unusually for her though she decided to go for mental pain and misery rather than the physical type. Some time previously I had lost a molar (I hadn’t actually lost it, it wasn’t like I went for a walk in the park, tapped my mouth absentmindedly and thought “where have I put that tooth?”), the top of it had been removed because of some enamel crisis that I hadn’t previously been aware of, leaving me with a root and a gappy grin.
The dentist had kindly offered to provide me with a crown (I was briefly very excited, king of Twickenham sprung to mind) to make me look less like an ageing pugilist and more like a movie star (admittedly, not MUCH more like a movie star) but before doing so I had to have a deep root filling. This deep root filling could only possibly be performed by some gentleman in a Harley Street practice (why is it a practice? I would prefer them to be called totallycompetents or something equally confidence inspiring) and so I had spent a four figure sum (before decimal places) having some bearded halitosis-ridden buffoon spend three hours filling my mouth with plasticine and then drilling a hole such that a troupe of Chilean miners could cheerfully escape from their deep mining of my maxilla.
The dentist needed to x-ray the root before making the mold for the crown. I don’t know about your dentist but this involves me biting on a gag-inducing piece of plastic wrapped lead whilst the dentist and her assistant hide behind a wall. It’s quite amusing that the lead for the x-ray machine remote control isn’t quite long enough to reach round the wall so there is always a hand protruding to press the button. I have visions of the dentist going home after a long week of fillings with a slightly glowing hand.
X-rays produced and on a screen (that I also can’t see because I’m still on my back fighting back a retch whilst gripping the armrests of the dentists chair and the dentist has one hand in my mouth restricting any movement of my head at all) and dentist said “Oh dear”.
It seems that somewhere during the dental dialogue the depth of the depression in my damaged denture had become disrupted. The filling was exactly 1 mm shorter than it should have been.
I was a little bit cross. What I really needed to do was to pour forth my wrath in a string of obscenities and decry the parentage of every dentist in the world. The only thing that I could do was bite the hand of the dentist. So I did. Quite hard. She wasn’t impressed at all but it did give some satisfaction. The only problem is that I have to go back in a couple of weeks and I’m dreading the reception that will greet me. It is only for a check up but once they’ve got you strapped in that chair anything can happen.
You can read other tales of how people have expressed themselves (or not) by clicking on this daily post link.