Friday, May 29, 2009

The problem of ...

Been a bit obsessed by teeth recently, largely because mine have seen better days and are beginning to complain about my treatment of them. Mistaking an olive stone for a sultana while eating an interesting salad in Tenerife was only one of the mistakes for which I am now paying - both in trauma and, I suspect, in cash.

But it was while I was reclining, somewhat alarmingly, with my head lower than my feet at the behest of the charming 16-year-old who came to the rescue during today's emergency dental appointment, that I began to consider once more the age-old problem. Not, as you might think, the problem of pain, for by this time I'd had so many injections that my entire face felt as if it belonged to someone else. No, the perennial problem in this position - head back, mouth agape and full of implements and gloved fingers - is the problem of spit.

No matter how assiduous the dental nurse with her wee hoover-thingy, the moment she has to turn away to mix minute quantities of some tooth-filling substance I feel that I will shortly drown in spit. The front of my mouth may feel like a dust-bowl, but somewhere around the memories of tonsils there is a sudden rush of saliva - and I have to swallow. Only I daren't, because I have become convinced that stuck down there under my tongue is a lump of filling/tooth/debris which to swallow would mean a slow death. But swallow I must - there is a kind of convulsion, a gagging sensation .... oh no....choking ...

And the twelve-year-old (he's younger by the minute, this one) asks brightly: You all right? And continues blithely to fill, scrape, buff, do unimaginable things with tiny bits of cotton wool (apparently I have some stuck inside my tooth right now) as I make a huge effort to relax and think of the absurd Simpsons poster stuck to the ceiling above the chair. Surely the torment cannot last for ever.

I just wish this child genius had a better taste in music...


  1. Oh, I am sooooo gloating on this entry!!! I am NOT alone, then? Having had 2 root canals this past year, I feel like I am the only person in the entire world that has to have all this, I mean repair done to my mouth!!!! Add to that the fact that my mouth is tiny (according to the oral surgeon who worked on digging out my three wisdom teeth many years ago) and I am not only bruised by pangs where all the needles entered my mouth, but you can put money on it that my lips have been so brutally stretched, they are now split on the sides of my mouth!!!!!

    Actually, I am currently undergoing all sorts of fun after a tooth broke nearly level with my gums a couple of months ago. I endured a root canal. AND two hours of fun and games while the dentist crafted a post for my final appointment in which I shall be crowned!

    I asked my dentist....he is approximately my age...(not a child, so he can answer in total honesty) if HE minds going to the dentist. hahaha He said he does NOT like going to the dentist and he would rather be GOLFING!!!

  2. Ooooh! Dentist stories! J'en ai de ces histoires!

    I once had a tooth extracted after a vote. There was an abscess; I said it was under tooth A, the dentist said it was under tooth B. Two other dentists from the practice were called in. Everybody hit teeth A & B with little hammers, and I dutifully yelped. A vote was taken, and I won 3 to 1. I was right. I know this (a) because the pain went away and (b) because the losing dentist thrust the offending tooth under my nose and said "Smell that! That's awful."

    I also fell asleep in the chair when Desmond the Singing Dentist was doing root canal things. I actually found it quite soothing. Of course, that was during the time when I didn't know that I had had a heart attack some months previously - that was only discovered when the chest physician to whom I had been referred diagnosed it. The heart people subsequently found kidney problems and the respiratory clinic found the aortic aneurism.

    Apart from the fact that I had visited nearly every department except obstetrics, it became clear to me that specialists know more about other people's specialisms than their own.

    Although I don't like needles very much, I now loathe the thought of gas. The last time I had gas - when I was about 12 - I had an out-of-body experience. I can clearly remember looking at myself from over in the corner by the autoclave, before a kind of spring went pyoing-oing-oing-oing and pulled me back to reality, which consisted of feeling each and every one of four healthy adult teeth being extracted to stop a major pile-up of teeth in my adolescent mouth. Those were the days.

    I don't know about your dentist, but one of mine once remarked that the nearest bite to mine was that of an orang outang. She also told me that I had a peculiar swallowing action - something about retroflex tongue action. Apparently I swallowed like a baby; babies grew out of this quickly; I hadn't. Confidence-boosting stuff. Her best effort was to tell me, while my mouth was full of oil-drilling apparatus (and a "wee hoover-thingy"), that I should have an operation for piles, if ever I needed it: she had just had it, and felt wonderful. Perhaps that's why I clench my buttocks every time sit in a dentist's chair.

    May you soon regain your composure and peace.

  3. Golly - did I touch a nerve?

  4. Chris...a nerve...and then some!!!

    Poor, poor ABF!

    I do have one more funny story involving the oral surgeon, which seems CENTURIES ago!

    I had a total of "only" three wisdom teeth and they were completely impacted. The only way out for those babies was to be excavated!!!

    I was a skinny young person in my 20's at the time. The surgeon advised me to go to the hospital for the work. NO!! I insisted I was going to stay AWAKE! He replied that I would hear things that sounded like someone "scraping against my skull". In my vast young wisdom, I said, "so what?"

    I hopped onto "the" table, got properly numbed up and the surgeon inserted what seemed a GIGANTIC rubber "doorstop" (!!!) to keep my mouth open. He began working right away. About fifteen minutes into the fun, it was urgent that I convey a very important bit of information to him.

    Being totally incapacitated as far as speech was concerned, I had NO idea HOW to tell this poor man I was going to WET MY PANTS if I didn't make it to the bathroom, pronto! So, I did the only thing that might get his attention. (I was buried under blankets as I was so cold, I had begun an uncontrollable shaking...probably more half-cold and half-FEAR!)

    I knitted my eyebrows together and kept frowning. The surgeon asked if there was something wrong? Through the huge rubber-doorstop looking thing I announced I had to go to the bathroom!

    The blankets were pulled back, a nurse was summoned to guide me to the facilities, and, well....

    I walked back to the table alone, hopped up on it, and thanked the kind surgeon. He burst into laughter and explained that in all his vast experience, he had never, ever encountered such an event before.....

  5. Ah, the dentist. Best thing to do is walk somewhere in your head, or sing your favourite songs (again in your head, or the saliva will go everywhere).

    I have been to the dentist/orthodontist/surgeon enough times to know all the tricks. Maybe I should hold seminars... The trick is to keep breathing, but through the nose and lift the tongue at the back teeth as though you were singing the vowel 'A' to avoid swallowing the pasty-powdery gunk. If the problem lies at the back of the mouth, then lift the tongue to the roof of your mouth and make shapes with it. It works, I promise!

    I tend to enjoy a trip to the dentist nowadays. I think I am immune to face-pain!