Proper middle class people have teeth that are all their own. I however am a cleaner, and I do not. Today I went to the dentist to have three teeth extracted. Two on one side of my jaw, one on the other. One on each side was reduced to a mere root, which had been crowned and then lost the crown. The third was a tooth whose gum had receded, and whose life expectancy was short.
I react very badly to adrenaline in local anaesthetic, so the anaesthetic is without it, which makes it generally less efficient. The nice girl was running a bit late. She numbed my gums at both sides, and drilled a filling out and re-stuffed it. She was a bit horrified that my last dental visit was only a year ago, because rather a lot had not been done.
Then she scraped a bit at the gums at both sides and asked if I felt it. I did. She added more anaesthetic. Then I made light and hilarious conversation about my portfolio of jobs, while the anaesthetic took hold. Then she scraped at my gums – it was no better. I apologised. She added more anaesthetic. I made light conversation about publishers. She laughed a lot.
She scraped at my gums. It really did seem less bad, and I said I could not feel a thing. This was not wholly true. She started on the extraction of the duo on my left side. I let out a squawk. She stopped. I apologised. She added more local anaesthetic. She then started on the right side, on the grounds things were better there. They were worse. I stood it for some time and then stopped her. I apologised. She added more local anaesthetic.
She went back to the left side. It was bad, it was really bad. I stopped her. By now my appointment has run seriously over time. I apologised. I spat out a lot of blood. I got a new tissue. She explained I had now reached the limit of anaesthetic allowed. She could give me antibiotics, because probably the problem was infection at the root, combined with the lack of adrenaline in the mix.
By now, both sides of my mouth felt seriously battered despite the anaesthetic. I said she should at least get out the loose tooth, and try the left root. She took out the tooth in seconds. It was not a great experience, but at least the tooth came fast. The root on that side was hollow, the crown having come out post and all. This gave a bit of grip, and although the whole thing was bad, it was reasonably fast.
We paused. We re-grouped. I spat out a lot of blood. I rinsed and spat a lot of bloody mouth wash out as well. She and I both hoped that the anaesthetic on the right side was helping a bit more. She started on it. I bore it for a bit. I stopped her. She repeated her offer to give antibiotics and to have me back. The trouble was that I now had a battered and disturbed root, over a suspected abscess. I would then need to come back and endure the whole thing again. It was not appealing.
I told her to press on. If I needed a break I would stop her. Now, remember this is a solid root, and there is little to grip. There followed a desperate struggle. She struggled to grip the root and pull it out. I struggled to stay and the chair. I remembered a friend, a final year medical student, who has sometimes she says, to hold down agonised children. I decided that if she could hold down children, it ought, in theory, to be possible to hold down myself. Tears ran down my cheeks. In the end, I stopped my dentist. I made a lot of bad jokes very fast, about anything, including I think sawn-off legs. I asked how much longer. She said the root was now loose and she could, she thought, get it out in a very short time. I prised myself back against the chair. She got the damned pliers back in my mouth. There was a brief and worse agony, and then, surprisingly, there was no dentist in my mouth.
She asked me to spit and rinse, and warned me there was quite a lot of blood. I cannot say this surprised me. Then between us, we got the blood off my face and my hands. She remarked that most people would have quit, but I just kept making jokes – I replied the alternatives were too terrible to contemplate. I did not add they involved screaming loudly and hurling myself at the door. She added sorrowfully that she was usually good at extractions. I am a compassionate person and did not add any of the answers which sprang readily to mind.
There was a waiting room of potential patients, and were I a really nice person, I might not have made the joke I did while paying at the desk, because some of the patients looked as if they were the nervous kind who are liable not to realise it is wholly painless to visit the dentist nowadays. My excuse must be that by the time I got outside, I was barely capable of walking. I bought an ice-cream, for sugar and cold, and handed in a prescription for antibiotics, and went and sat in the car till I felt better.
Driving home I mused on the fact that instead of feeling pain as my jaw returned to life, I was actually feeling less pain gradually as levels of insult faded. Now I am home and in pyjamas. I propose a quiet evening of editing and the dogs will not get much of a walk at all. I am sorry for this – but on the whole I feel they will have suffered less than either me or my dentist.