HELEN MOORHOUSE VOICEOVER ARTIST / AUTHOR
I haven't been to the dentist in a very long time. I can't remember the last time I was at the dentist. And that's not a case of I haven't been in six months or even a year and can't remember because I have done so many exciting things since. I genuinely can't remember the last time I was at the dentist. I know there was an extraction but I seem to have blocked out where, when and which tooth. I do remember the feeling of it being prised from my gum however and very loud cracking sound. And I wonder why I haven't been.
Anyway, for fear of being a toothless old crone, I finally gave in to my nagging conscience and went and while I'm sure my teeth will thank me, my wallet won't. I need so much done I am going to be very very poor for a very long time after they've finished, whenever that is.
There are archaeological digs that I'm sure have taken less time than it will take to fix everything in the gaping black hole that's my mouth. Like Tutankhamun's tomb for example. Or Pompeii. And they were probably less messy. And the guy who finally sat down and calculated how much work needed to be done didn't take a sharp breath as he realised how long it could go on for but not care because he figured he could just retire on the proceeds anyway.
Today, I went to see the hygienist for the first round of blasting. The first thing she did was introduce herself and hand me a pair of giant orange goggles to pop on while she took my glasses and put them somewhere I couldn't see, presumably to slow down any attempt at escape. I don't know if this was meant to be a distraction or if the whole process was done in 3D and she was actually miles away from me as she did it. I think possibly she was afraid that I might be blinded should a chip of thousand year old tartar suddenly bounce out and into my eye.
There followed a half hour of scraping, blasting, scratching, wincing, shrieking, gasping and struggling. And that was just her. It was less uncomfortable giving birth - at least then I could have an epidural. Although she did say that she could conduct the process under local anaesthetic but that she'd have to bring me back four times. I wasn't kidding when I asked her if she meant from the dead.
The second thing she did was tell me that it was nothing to be worried about and the whole thing was just 'cold, wet and buzzy'. I resisted the temptation to make a comment about girls nights in and opened wide. She said that the cold was the bit that most people found the worst. I can only take that to mean her usual clientele must consist of people who eat lightbulbs for a living.
The irony of the whole affair was that she discovered probably an ancient city where the tartar used to be on the bottom layer but left firmly in place a tiny shred of 'herb' from my lunchtime Super Noodles which was embedded between my two top front teeth. Maybe there's some sort of demarcation issue on the part of the sucking/blowing/scratching equipment and it refuses to touch the top teeth when it's bottom teeth day?
Why would anyone actually want to be a dentist apart from the obvious financial rewards? There must be easier and less disgusting ways of making an extravagant living. Why would you want to root round in other people's mouths all day? All cheese and onion breath and cream cracker residue. My dentist is a lovely guy but what on earth is in it for him? Does he go home at night and proudly tell his wife that he whippped out an especially difficult molar that day? That on a good day everyone opened wide and no one clamped down? Is a good day a simple clean and polish for someone or a complete and total landfill site that he can get stuck into, quite literally?
And whatever about dentists, what about dental hygienists? I love to clean sticky 'mouse dirt' from the inside of computer mice that still have the little rubber balls in - does that make me a potential dental hygienist? What do you do if your child turns to you and says that their greatest wish in life is to scrape other people's teeth clean? Because let's face it, there's so much training involved these people actually have to WANT to do it very badly. Mental hygienists I say.
I have two fillings to go this Thursday. I remember one of those from the past alright - there was smoke and a funny smell. Mind you, in those days, dentists always looked and acted like Michael Palin's character in Brazil. And there was that funny smell as well. They're not like that anymore though; they're all 'we're not going to hurt you, that's not what we're about' and giving you a practice stretch of your jaws to warm them up before setting to whatever torture they're going to inflict on you today.
And then back to the hygienist next Monday for Round Two. I'm thinking of sticking a piece of blu-tack to one of my bottom teeth then to test my demarction theory. In the meantime, best get to flossing.