So, I started my day be receiving the most terrifying of all texts. No, not the one telling me that my bank account is being plundered and the only way to stop it is to follow the link below NOW! Not the one telling me that I had accidentally left my data roaming turned on whilst in Dubai and, consequently, run up a bill of £7,369 by monitoring the bus timetables in Beunos Aires. Nor the one telling me that my emails have just been accessed by a Colombian poppy salesman who is asking permission to transfer £3million pounds per week into my bank account for safe keeping. No, this was the one from my dentist, telling me not to forget my appointment next week. This is the text that reduces me to a gibbering wreck. This is the text that forces my blood pressure medication into overtime. This is the text that sends my wife off to hide everything sharp.
It brings with it the certain knowledge that some things will, for no apparent reason, begin to happen over the ensuing days:
• My gums will start to bleed when I brush my teeth, which, admittedly, I do much more assiduously in the run-up to a check-up: unfortunately closing the stable door after the double espresso has bolted.
• My fillings (my mouth is approximately 98% dental amalgam) will start to hurt when called upon to chew.
• My teeth will start to wobble.
I will spend so much time ‘checking my breath’ that people will assume that I have accidentally super-glued my hands to my face. I will find grit in every single spoonful of muesli.
My days of toffee éclairs and granola are lost on teeth that require a week’s notice before tackling a piece of toast. Such teeth as I have are my own (I stopped myself from saying all my own there, remembering how many of them are, in fact, largely lead-coloured) but the gap to tooth ratio has shifted substantially over the last few years. What molars remain are as islands in a sea of gum. Sometimes, when I have my mouth open and the dentist is speaking, I swear I can hear an echo.
When my children were young, we would have a family appointment. Whilst I was there, ostensibly, to hold their hands, they, in reality, were there to keep me calm. It is important to never show fear in front of your children – it merely gives them another weapon to use against you.
I was unaware that I was a particularly nervous patient (it had always been my belief that everybody falls apart at the dentist’s) until I realised that my dentist had, in the absence of my children, taken to holding my hand as she spoke to me, before delving into my mouth. My new dentist does not hold my hand, but I notice that she, personally, comes to escort me from the waiting room, instead of sending the nurse, which is what normally seems to happen. I’m guessing they have something written on my notes along the lines of, ‘Calm him down before you get him in the chair. May spontaneously combust.’ I may even qualify for one of those acronyms that the ‘professions’ are so fond of: SOS (Soft Old Sod) maybe, or MC (May Cry).
When I was younger, the quiet brusque efficiency of my elderly male dentist was appreciated; with very little conversation and never the invitation to speak with my mouth full of fingers. It always seemed that speed was the order of the day and, providing his basic ‘ticking off’ of teeth and associated additions was all that was required, his back-turned, ‘That’s fine. Pay on your way out,’ was music to my ears. These days, I cannot tell you how much I value the calming smile, a sense of empathy and care for the elderly. I no longer view the dentist with total fear – I just wish she’d stop sending me these threatening texts…