The dentist

Richmond isn’t just where you change to and from loop trains. It’s also where I go to the dentist. We all know how essential it is to go to the dentist regularly. But most of us don’t unless we’re forcibly dragged there. And why? Because no matter how nice the dentist might personally be… it doesn’t matter if the dentist chats to you, smiles as you arrive, or even decides the entire treatment is free, it’s still scary, and bloody painful.

The signs are there the moment you walk into the place. The posters advising you how to look after your teeth. Reminding you to brush three times a day. Reminding you to floss. Reminding you of how to stay away from the dentist. They should just spell it out: "Look, the better care you take of your teeth, the less often you’ll have to come back to this place, okay? Got it? Now scram. And take this free toothbrush with you."

And as you wait, in the appropriately titled "Waiting Room", you see the toughest of characters, entering the surgery, only to come out half an hour later with blood on their jackets and a bandage holding their lower jaw onto the rest of their skull. Okay, there were no screams, but probably they’ve had it soundproofed. These guys are not messing around when it comes to keeping your teeth clean.

It’s finally your turn. You put down the magazine with the article about Michael and Lisa-Marie’s sex life. You try to look brave… and go in.

There’s the dentist, and the nurse. With the rubber gloves, all the equipment, and the kind of cheerful expression that only medical professionals who get paid HOLY SHIT! dollars an hour can have.

The chair itself is nicely re-upholstered, with plenty of padding to make it comfortable. Of course, you just know that beneath all that cushioning is something that belongs in a bad horror film torture scene. Or perhaps that last bit in "Brazil". The arm clamps have been taken off, but it’s still basically the same chair. It probably dates back to medieval times. A flash of lightning, and you’re taken back for a moment. "Tell me where the prince is, Sir Edward, or I fear that you will be taken to the chair and have all your teeth removed!"

You sit down. A switch is pressed, and the chair begins to descend. A bit like in an aeroplane, though generally in an aeroplane they just bend over you to offer you alcohol and food; they don’t stuff odd
pieces of metal down your throat.

The view from the chair is intimidating, to say the least. The bright light in your eyes, the shadowy, masked figures leaning over you with their sharp implements of dental destruction, reflecting the light. And you, helpless, lying there, with your mouth gaping wide open, as if surprised by your surroundings. I wonder how many people have nightmares about being in this position at the dentist.

When it comes to dental care, most of us just have to put up with the cleaning, and the fillings. With possibly an X-ray thrown in for good measure. Spread over a few weeks, of course, to prolong the terror.

It’s the cleaning that I hate. Yes, I know that when (and if) I survive the ordeal, my teeth will be shinier than the sun at midday in the heat of the desert. I know they’ll be cleaner than they’ve ever been (until I eat). I know that for the first time in six months you’ll be able to see the gap between each tooth (which, like the gaps between my toes, is largely unchartered territory).

But it’s still gruelling, isn’t it. No matter how many advantages and benefits there are to cleaning. It still g-r-a-t-e-s as they scrape away. And it goes on longer than an Energizer battery. Sometimes I feel like I just want to hold my hand up and say "stop! Enough! You know, I really don’t mind plaque. Heck, it’s just this side of being a living being capable of independent thought, doesn’t plaque have a right to existence too? Nah, who cares if I lose a few teeth… I’ve got too many anyway! If I cut down, the toothpaste will last so much longer!"

The X-ray is usually a bit of a worry. The fact that they clear out of the room while they do it… uhh… I dunno. Maybe it was my imagination, but I could have sworn I had a kind of fluorescent tinge after the last X-ray. And going home I’m still not sure what that dog was barking at. And that old lady looked very scared.

So the X-rays come back, and presto, it’s filling time. I don’t mind fillings too much. Just try and ignore the injection, and hope they’re putting it in the right place. And hope that they’ve forgotten about seeing that scene in Mr Bean where he goes to the dentist. As the numbness starts to set in, you can look forward to making demented grins at the people on the way home for a laugh.

If the Novocaine does its work, you won’t feel a thing during the drilling. I must see if I can get a dentists’ drill, I reckon it’d be just the thing for making very small holes in things. They wedge your mouth open, stuff in the actual filling (similar to what goes in a duvet, I presume), and it’s all done. Easy.

What is that stuff you rinse your mouth out in after treatment? Some kind of colourful substance. Perhaps they need to switch it to something like Coke, to encourage people to come again. "Only this dentist give you a choice of Coke, Sprite or a chocolate milkshake to rinse your mouth in afterwards! Diet varieties available!"

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.