I went to the dentist yesterday. Six months previously I had endured a serious session of root canal work, prompted by an infected tooth which had to be extracted, and part of yesterday’s purpose was to check that all was well. Since said (‘little op’) root canal work had resulted in me suffering a degree of lock-jaw for three weeks, possibly caused by the anaesthetic affecting a nerve, it may not surprise you that I had my fingers crossed.
Fortunately – in that respect – all was as it should have been.
My teeth and I have a bit of history. As a kid, I loved physical contact and a bit of ‘rough and tumble’. One consequence of this is that half of one of my two front teeth has been missing for fifty years, this the product of an elbow to the face in a soccer game at my prep school.
At various times since then I have been offered the chance to have it repaired or replaced, all of which I declined, either on the basis that – given my proclivity for violence – it might be liable to happen again at any time and/or the fact that, to me, my broken tooth somehow felt part of who I was, and so what was the point?
When I was fourteen, my family switched dentists. I well remember the time my mother took me to see Mr Cook, the new practitioner. With my mother sitting in the corner of the room, I settled into his chair and he then engineered it backwards into the appropriate position to gain access to my mouth and peered in. His very-first comment was “You’re a fighter, aren’t you?”
Yesterday, as I arrived, my dentist announced that his first act would be to go around my mouth and make a situation report.
This he did by looking in and dictating a note of what he saw to his nurse.
He began with my back lower left jaw.
“One okay. Two, missing. Three, missing. Four, missing. Five okay …”
It was at that point he stopped, I having put my hand up and motioned that I wished to say something.
As I came up for air, I quipped: “I tell you what, why don’t you just list the teeth that are there? It might save us all a good deal of time …”
We all laughed. I like to introduce a little levity to any situation in which I may soon be subjected to pain.