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October 2002 - In the Chair

I'm definitely coming to the conclusion that Mr Nick Harvey ought to keep his gob firmly closed and his dear little fingers WELL away from keyboards.

What is it they say about speaking too soon? It was quite innocent, my little aside last month, honest!

All I did was mention in passing that those FINE people, known as dentists, sometimes ask you questions at a point when you're not best placed to answer them, due to the quantities of ironmongery that you have in your mouth.

I didn't mean any hurt or injury to those WONDERFUL dentist people, I assure you.

Almost as soon as I published my excellent edition for September, it seemed to come straight back to haunt me. I'm sure you'll all be pleased to know that it's a lot better now, but the last few weeks have been agony in the tooth department.

It all really started about six months ago, when this ancient filling decided to fall out.

Now, I'd expected the pain to start immediately it fell out, but it didn't. So, being your typical lover of visiting the dentist, I decided to myself that if it didn't hurt, there was no point in having anything done about it.

The thing had been there for about ten years, and I remember the bloke who put it there not being too sure of whether it was needed anyway.

So when it fell out and didn't hurt, I decided that it had probably never been required on the voyage anyway.

It left a nice little crevice in any case. One of those lovely little places where you could find a bit of meat from the spaghetti bolognese many hours after you thought the enjoyment of the meal was long gone. An ideal hiding place for wayward sweetcorn and the like.

I was beginning to understand how a cow feels when it has its meal of the same grass many times over, and had really got used to the enjoyment of still having some breakfast bacon left over at nearly lunchtime; when the fun suddenly started to turn to pain.

This dear little toothipeg suddenly decided to engage in fairly regular throbbing sessions.

It was at this point that I was advised in the strongest possible manner by 'er indoors that not only should I book a an appointment at the dentist's immediately; but that I should have done so many months previously.

So, in fear and trepidation, I threw another four Nurofen down my neck and picked up the phone to make the appointment.

Now, I don't want to give you the impression that I hadn't been along to the dentist for quite a while; but when I asked when it would be convenient to visit Mr Burrow, I was told that he had sadly passed away five years previously and his patients had been taken over by the new man, Mr Pierce.

Why is it, I wonder, that you don't seem to be allowed to be a dentist nowadays unless you have a totally frightening name?

Anyway, that aside, the receptionist enquired if I was in pain at that moment; and when told that I was in total agony, she then immediately went into the prepared speech about how he was on holiday for three weeks, but that he could fit me in a month later.

I'm sure they only do that when they know you haven't been for years, in order to teach you a good lesson.

You then have to spend the following four weeks with not only the pain that you had in any case, but also the ever-building fear of what he's going to do to you when he finally does get you into the chair.

And why is it that when you go out for a quick drink in the evening, all your so-called friends delight in telling you all the details of their recent visits to the dentist?

I never realised until the last month or so, that everyone who goes out for an evening drink is an expert at finding out what's wrong in your mouth, making sure that's exactly the same as they've just had, and explaining how much more painful the treatment is than leaving the (w)hole thing as it is.

The world, it seems, is totally populated by amateur dentists, verbose amateur dentists, at that!

Not only do you have to endure all the amateurs making you more and more nervous, but then it's just as bad on the day itself.

They specially arrange it that the emergency appointments are at around twelve noon, so Mr Pierce can get further and further behind as the morning progresses and leave you in the waiting room long past your appointed time.

By fifteen minutes after you should have gone in, the sweat is already pouring off your brow and you really would love to grit your teeth, but daren't because of the pain.

That big bloated goldfish in the tank in the corner of the waiting room keeps looking at you, and you become totally convinced that he's only been put there to laugh at your impending misfortune.

At last, it's your turn to be called.

As you climb the stairs to the inner sanctum, you wipe the sweat on your sleeve so you can try to convince this butcher that you're a man, and brave with it.

You enter, you sit in the chair, he asks which tooth and you point to it. His foot touches the magic button on the chair and you go from upright to flat on your back in an instant.

The next bit of the story, is that to which I eluded last month, never expecting it to come true so soon.

There will be no conversation until he's filled your mouth with his arsenal of ironmongery to make reply impossible. All you're now capable of is a grunt, which he'll always take as the answer which involves the most pain.

Just as you've convinced yourself that the drill isn't so bad after all; he utters those fearful words, "It'll have to come out".

You cling on to the arms of the chair for grim death as he attaches even more ironmongery to the tooth in order to get a better grip when the terrible moment arrives.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, he pumps a couple of nanolitres of very weak local anaesthetic into your gums. I always thought you waited for the injection to take effect, but not this chap!

You're not sure which hurts most; the original pain from the tooth; the agony of all the metalwork he's attached to it; the gum where he administered the blunt needle; or the dry bottom of your mouth where the suction pipe is trying to take your tongue for a guided tour of the surgery plumbing.

Still you hang on to the arms of the chair like your life depended on it.

He stands astride you and hangs on to the clamp on the tooth. Left and right he leans until you eventually hear this dull crack from deep within your skull.

Then comes the wonderful moment when he announces that it's out, and he replaces it with half a ton of cotton wool padding. He removes all the ironmongery from your mouth and kicks the button that sits you instantly upright again.

Why, oh why, can't the arms of the dentist's chair be upholstered? I'm sure they're only made of that cold black plastic so after it's all over and you sit up and let go of them, he can laugh at the sweat your palms have left behind as a signal that you really were scared to death after all.

"You'll need some antibiotics to stop any infection" he says.

He's already told you to keep your teeth closed on all the padding for an hour or so, so there's then a few minutes of head shaking and nodding while he works out what you are, and are not allergic to, so he knows what to prescribe.

Off you go to the chemists with your little yellow prescription; mighty glad to have escaped that place with your life intact.

I won't bore you with very much of the detail about the chemist having chosen this particular day to update all his computer records, and all the business of trying to give full name; address including postcode; telephone number; date of birth; and more about allergies whilst trying to keep the mouth tightly shut over all the cotton wool.

I'm sure you wouldn't be interested.

After all, the exciting episode in the chemists afterwards could have happened to anyone, and although it was mildly awkward, it certainly wasn't painful at all.

No, I have to admit that it was much more fun recounting all the agony of being in the chair. This edition of Comment is dedicated to all those amateur dentists in the pub who did exactly that to ME before I went!

Well, I thought it was time to get my own back on a few people! Nasty piece of work aren't I?

I promise to be a much nicer person when I return at the beginning of November with the next exciting edition. I hope you'll all be big and brave enough to join me then. Right, I'm off, where's me toothbrush?

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