Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth

Last week I was strolling around Waitrose and I decided I fancied some camembert; fancy as in I wanted to eat some, not that I became strangely romantically entangled with a piece of cheese. So I picked some up, popped it in my basket and a few minutes later I'd bought it.

The next day I decided that I quite liked the idea of having some of the camembert for lunch so I took the packet out of the fridge - noting at the time a rather distinct aroma - opened it, carved a bit off, lit a candle because this stuff REEKS, and began eating.

I mean, seriously, every time I open the fridge I have to spark some incense or something because this stuff is aggressive.

Anyway, that's not what this tale is about. Because a couple of minutes after eating the cheese I noticed a tooth at the back of my mouth felt a bit… weird.

Now, strictly speaking I should blame the Kitkat I had after the cheese because that's way harder than camembert, but I love Kitkats, don't want to blame them for any of the world's troubles, and the cheese just smells.

So I sit there for a few seconds running my tongue around the back of my mouth thinking that it's just food wedged down in the tooth and I can probably pry it off if I really go at it like a high-schooler furiously making out behind the bike sheds, but after a while I start to get that mounting sensation of dread - so much so that I had to pause the episode of Supernatural I was watching and peg it upstairs to the bathroom. There I start brushing my teeth, certain that in a few seconds I'll have dislodged the offending mass and everything will be fine.

Everything was not fine.

Opening my mouth I look back and see and big old lump of tooth has just, like, gone.

Gone as in it's no longer anywhere in my mouth, which means I've swallowed it.

At this point I start fretting and here's why: I *hate* dentists.

Seriously. Pretty much from the moment I was old enough to make the decision myself I've not been. Which is weird, because when I was a kid I had the loveliest dentist and never needed any working doing. That said, he used to have a load of those little furry clip-on toys that used to be everywhere in the eighties attached to his lamp and I always worried one would fall off, straight into my mouth and I'd choke, so I guess there's a reason for my paranoia.

Anyway, at this point, even though the tooth doesn't hurt and I can stab it with my tongue and drink tea and eat and it only feels weird when I do touch it I decide there's two courses of action:

1. Leave it and hope it gets better.
2. Go to a dentist.

I know I'm grown up now because I actually decide on option 2, even though option 1 was mightily appealing.

Finding a dentist on a Friday afternoon when you've not had a dentist in years is a fraught experience, reader. Especially so when you're trying to find an NHS one and the closest appointment they can give you is in April. And this is why I ended up going to a private dentist, because not only were they reasonably affordable, but they were just a short walk from Sparky Towers and had a rather nice, professional looking logo so I reasoned they must be good.

So at an ungodly hour on Monday morning I rock up to the dentist and fill in a registration form; under the section asking 'do you have any medical conditions we should know about' I write 'I'm absolutely terrified of dentists (sorry).'

A short time later a lovely lady approaches me and introduces herself. We'll call her Susan. "Nice to meet you Susan," I say. She smiles and replies "you don't really mean that, do you?"

Susan leads me to her chamber of horrors and asks me to perch on the seat. I explain what's happened and she doesn't chastise me for not going to a dentist in 847 years. Then she asks me to swing my feet up and she begins to lower the chair. At this point I go rigid with fear because the sensation of the chair tilting makes me feel like I'm going to be waterboarded, or simply slide off the chair and shatter into a thousand tiny pieces on the floor. Above me is a flatscreen television showing a piece on BBC Breakfast about Brexit, as if I wasn't already terrified enough.

After a quick look in my gob Susan says I've done remarkably well for someone who's neglected their dental health for such an obscenely long time. Then she pulls out a wand with a camera attached and, replacing the BBC Breakfast Brexit piece on the television begins to take me on a guided tour of my mouth. If it wasn't for the fact she had two fingers and a camera in my mouth I would've asked if she could change the channel back to the Brexit piece and as lovely as this all was, could she just fix what needs fixing and leave me feeling blissfully ignorant.

Susan says the damaged tooth just needs a filling and I almost explode. I've never had a filling in my life and I suddenly feel a sense of unexpected shame. Then Susan injects me and half my face goes numb.

"If at any point you want me to stop," she says, "just raise your hand."

I raise my hand.

"I haven't started yet," she says.

I then decide to sit on my hands because otherwise she'll be stop-starting more than a worn out 1984 Ford Escort.

At this point I'm just one big massive rigid piece of man-shaped tension, which is ironic given that I'm always telling people in yoga classes to let the tension go and relax. I try practicing what I preach, but I just start vibrating.

Anyway, Susan goes about doing her thing and I'm a very brave little boy until that moment right at the end where the woman holding the suction thing turns away for a second and my mouth fills up with water and I choke a bit.

"Oh, looks like we hit your gag reflex there," says Susan smiling.

I BEG YOUR PARDON SUSAN I telepathically convey because my mouth is otherwise occupied and my face half numb.

Susan then announces we're done and asks if I want to see what she's done. I don't, and tell her I'll review her handiwork later at my leisure, once the trauma (and the anaesthetic) has worn off. Part of me is hoping that she's going to give me a lollipop for being so brave, but I guess that goes against the whole trying to avoid getting any cavities thing.

So there we have it. I now have my first filling. And it's all because of some stinky camembert and definitely not because of a Kitkat. Bloody cheese. Oh, and Big Bro just keeps asking me if I've poo'd out the offending shard that snapped off. So far the answer is no, but now I'm terrified it's going to lacerate my bottom when it finally does depart. Such trauma.



I took me 24 hours to summon up the courage to check out Susan's work and the woman is a genius. She's the Michelangelo of dentistry. I'd take a photo but I've got an iPhone Plus and I can't fit it in my mouth.