I recently needed the services of a dentist and, as my usual driller and filler (not yanker, please note) was on vacation, I had to visit the locum. And very good he was, too.
I still have my own teeth and although they are beat and battered and slightly odd in color, and there are gaps here and there, I plan to hang on to them.
Where I grew up in the industrial north of England, no one cared much about dental hygiene. I remember telling my mum - at 12-years-old - about a couple of holes in my gnashers. Her reply was not to worry because “when you are 21, we'll get you a nice set of dentures on the National Health Service!”
Like most kids of the day, I suffered at the hands of a brutal school dentist—a man who should have been hung, drawn and quartered and his teeth removed with a chisel. I still remember the stink of the gas mask, as he placed it over my face and how mum, half-walking and half-carrying, took me home while I dripped blood on the rain-slicked pavement. We made it about a mile before I fainted and woke up on the floor of the local butchers with a bucket of bloody sawdust between my knees and a pigs head grinning at me from the counter. The butcher was so impressed by my bravery that he gave me a cow’s horn to take home, which my mum promptly threw in the dustbin on reaching the house.
I have had some good toothy experiences. A dentist in my old home town surrounded himself with buxom assistants: one was the receptionist and the other the dental nurse. It was common knowledge that to score a job with the dentist you had to have big boobs and wear tight or low-cut top … I had a lot of my dental work done there.
Another dentist ushered me to the front of a long queue in the Canary Islands when she learned I had lost a filling as I was setting off on a single handed Atlantic crossing. I told myself that had she not been able to help, I would pack the tooth with car-body filler and extract it at sea with a pair of pliers should it start to hurt. I was younger then and believed that what the old hands could do, I could do much better.
By far the worst are the conmen, the charlatans, and believe me, they are out there. I visited a dentist in St. Martin who told me I needed four thousand dollars worth of work, that really we should start immediately. His list of my problems included two teeth that should be capped, a wisdom tooth that needed to come out, and another that would require surgery to straighten. I had gone in for a small filling and he hit me with the list after he started drilling, without first giving me any anesthetic. I was sorely tempted to grab him by the balls and run him into the street where, with luck, he might get run over by a truck. Needless to say, I never went back.
A friend of mine was a superb dental hygienist and I went to her every six months to have my pearlies cleaned. She advised, “If you can’t floss, brush. If you can’t brush, rinse.”
That’s not a bad philosophy for life, either!
Are you poking your teeth with your tongue yet?