A Visit to the Dentist

I had toothache. It hurt.

I had a weekend of drinking pints – bucketfuls of cider with only estimated percentages and ingredients that would make McDonalds turn away in disgust. The toothache got worse.

On Wednesday, I went to the University Dental School. I sat in the reception and waited to be seen along with a builder who had been up all night with a bottle of whiskey and a pair of pliers trying to extricate a troublesome tooth. Eventually I was lead into a large open plan room and told to take a seat in the dreaded dental chair.

A friendly young student dentist asked me some questions and then looked in my mouth. The conversation took a different course – it was no longer friendly. The prognosis was bad: my teeth were decayed and infected and impacted. The worst kind of verbs. I needed to have my back molar removed. A nurse took me into another room and made me stand in a strange contraption, bite on a plastic spatula and wait as a metal visor slowly rotated around my head like something out of 2001 Space Odyssey. It did not take the dread away.

I have never had a tooth out before; I was terrified. The last dentist I went to was the only NHS practice taking on new patients in the whole of Greater Manchester. It soon became apparent why this was so. All I needed was a small filling – simple really. The female dentist pushed me firmly into the chair and in broken English told me in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed any injections and not to be such a pussy. No anaesthetic! My eyes darted across to the wall where her qualifications, written in Cyrillic, were hanging in their cheap gild frames. Although I couldn’t be sure because of the water filling my eyes, I swear I could make out the Polish word for dumpling – they were not qualifications but pages from a restaurant menu.

Despite my garbled protestations, she commenced to drill and poke and molest my tooth with the caring capacity of Kathy Bates in Misery. White pain shot up through my tooth, through my brain and right out of the top of my head. It was unimaginably painful. You know sometimes when you’re walking through a city at night and you see a beam of light sweeping across the sky. They’re not lasers from some nightclub, fun fair or casino – they are from people having fillings without anaesthetic, trust me.

Back to Bristol and I was booked in for the operation with an oral surgeon at the Dental School. The man that met me was in his twenties, younger than me, a final year dentistry student. I had seen his type before – usually sat slumped in a doorway, after drinking thirty Bacardi Breezers, watching hypnotised as luminous sick passes between his chubby fingers. My fear, if possible, doubled.

Appearances were deceptive. My rugger-bugger dentist was fantastic. After injecting me in my gum and then pallet, he picked up some mean-looking pliers and asked me to open my mouth wider. The girth of his forearms alone made my tooth attempt to loosen itself. What followed reminded me of the children’s story about the family trying to pull up the enormous turnip. The dull sensations of wrenching and pulling, and the disturbing noises were horrific but no pain. I waited for the moment when my nerves kicked in and I would experience the pain – it didn’t happen. The only pain I experienced was when the dentist used my lower jaw for leverage. Soon enough his considerable strength won out and my tooth crunched then slurped out of my gum.

The after-care pamphlet told me to avoid excitement and not eat solids for 48 hours. I went around my cousin’s and she made me the best chickpea, spinach and apricot soup. Then we sat down and watched the latest Rambo film – thankfully, I did not get excited, not once. Even when Rambo ended the Burmese civil war with an almighty hail of bullets, I managed to remain blissfully unexcited.


For more body dysfunctions, read what it’s like to suffer with Hayfever.

About the author

Tom Spooner

View all posts