Sunday, July 09, 2006

A nice little earner

I do not enjoy visiting the dentist. It's something to do with being utterly helpless while my mouth is filled with half the contents of an ironmonger's shop and intense pain is inflicted. Samurai Sam doesn't enjoy it either, but was kind enough to coin the term Tooth Pirate.

When I was a kid, I went for a dental checkup every four months. And all used to go well. The dentist invariably congratulated me on my straight, clean teeth. He generally did the usual scale and polish, but this was probably more related to finding something to do while I was in the chair.

And then the old man retired. The new dentist, fresh out of Tooth Piracy School, went beserk in my mouth. "Seven fillings? Are you serious?"

My parents took the attitude that I must have given up on toothbrushes and started a seaside rock habit over the preceding four months. Either that, or the old guy had been half blind and not noticed cavities, or was it conceivable that the new dentist regarded my mouth as thirty-two potential gold mines? Thanks to the National Health Service, I (or rather my parents) would not have to pay for the treatment because I was in full-time education. Therefore the more work the dentist did, the more income she would receive from the NHS.

Shortly after this rather lucrative trip to the dentist I got toothache for the first time in my life. Lower right seven had developed an abscess, and it hurt like hell. Several trips to the dentist followed, involving root canal work, temporary fillings and a catering pack of pain killers. I can safely report that root canal work is nowhere near as much fun as a good solid kick in the head.

So now I had two metal legs in one of my teeth supporting a lump of amalgam alloy. Over the next few years, various bits of tooth fell off the sides, ultimately leaving a metal lump protruding out of my gum. Then one summer holiday the filling fell off, leaving a pair of metal posts poking up into my mouth.

Off to the dentist again. By this time I was at university, so I engaged the services of a new practicioner. "Full time education? Free treatment then."

Suddenly, on hearing this new piece of good news this new dentist decided that, far from just dealing with my collapsing Lower Right Seven by inserting a third metal rod (ah, more root canal work. Oh joy), all of my fillings were now loose and leaking and would have to be replaced. Does the term 'k-ching!' spring to mind? I bet it did then too. I should also add that at this point the dentist decreed that my mouth was too small for my wisdom teeth. The top two would have to come out "immediately, and the lower two probably within the next six months."

"Why can't I have Lower Right Seven out? Because it's such a nice little earner, perhaps?"

Maybe I was less than safe actually pointing out to the man with the drills and sharp implements that I had seen through his nefarious scheme. More agony over several rather brutal sessions ensued. I am advised that I shouldn't really have been spitting bits of bone from the empty sockets for the next few weeks.

Six months later and I'd moved job, town and residence again. My latest dentist took one look in my mouth:

Tooth Pirate:"I see you've had two wisdom teeth out."

Grumpy Goat:"Indeed I have. There's no fooling you, is there? According to my previous dentist the lower two will have to be extracted really soon."

Tooth Pirate:"I don't see why. There's plenty of room for them."

Grumpy Goat:"Hmmm. Would you care to put that in writing?"

Needless to say, the Pirate Code decreed that all tooth-pirates should close ranks. I was unable to get a professional statement to the effect that a dentist had done unnecessary work. As Lower Right Seven was giving trouble again, I asked that it be extracted, thereby allowing the wisdom tooth to grow up and forwards into the gap. "Don't be silly. We don't pull teeth any more."

And this now seems to be the prevailing attitude. Instead of one dentist pulling a troublesome tooth for a single fee, the tooth is repeatedly repaired, collecting a fee each time. For anyone who's counting, good old Lower Right Seven has been tampered with at least four times, and I'm not finished yet.

The same tooth was fiddled with twice more while I lived in Doha. By then I was being told that an amalgam filling was temporary and I'd ultimately need a gold crown. Clearly the dentistry industry is getting more ambitious in its quest for money. According a different kind of pirate, 'obsessed with treasure' is a symptom of being of the buccaneer persuasion. I asked about an extraction, and was told that "if it had been done twenty years ago than the wisdom tooth would have grown forward and into the gap. Now the wisdom tooth is fully erupted it can't ever fill the gap. So no extraction. Except of money from your wallet, of course."

I am relieved to report that this evening's trip to yet another tooth pirate has so far not proved as lucrative as I feared. My old fiend [sic] Lower Right Seven is giving me hell yet again (for about the seventh time), but I'm advised that on this occasion it's a minor gum infection that can be treated with pills and potions. Let's hope the painkillers kick in so I actually get some sleep tonight.


kaya said...

1 year I have a nasty cavity that when it hurts oh god! So to avoid going to the DENTIST I chew only on the left side, which has been going on for a year now. WOULD U BELIEVE IT!!

Hope u feel better U BRAVE BRAVE GOAT!

Grumpy Goat said...

Yes, Kaya, I would believe it! Clove oil is very good for short-term pain relief from cavities. It is unfortunate that teeth seem incapable of healing themselves.

At least with modern anaethetics (catering size) the experience in the Chair is less pain and more noise and vibration. That said, anyone who actively enjoys undergoing dental treatment is probably a candidate for a padded room.

There also remains the option of a general anaesthetic for the true dental phobic.

kaya said...

Really I can have general?
general is nice, better tahn local because the vibrations as you rightly say are definately for the S&M inclined.
Marinated my tongue and right cheek with enough clove oil to make biryani.
One baby delivered compliments of epidural.4 years later and I still have nighmares.

nzm said...

We lived through that time when the dentists' motto was to drill and fill regardless of the condition of the teeth.

Both my brother and I are suffering in later years because of this.

I'm now going through the expensive process of porcelain crowns etc, tooth removal, and for 6 months until October, I'm wearing a titanium plate that is supposedly creating a gap between my upper and lower jaw to correct my collapsed bite, so that the dentist can cap my 4 upper front teeth which have cracks.

I'm seriously questioning whether this is necessary as I believe that the cracks have been there for a while now, and if the teeth break, then I can get them capped.

The plate is now causing me to bite my left inner cheek whenever I eat which worries me that this will be a permanent issue when the teeth are capped. When I remove the plate to brush my teeth, all the pressure is now on my back teeth and it just doesn't feel right.

It's just one problem after another!

El Casareño Ingles said...

I like the idea of Tooth Pirate - maybe I can motivate my son to brush his teeth now that he no longer believes in the Tooth Fairy.

I did have a good dentist here in Casares (why are they always from Argentina?) but he's moved on. He believed in extractions if necessary and had the ham-sized hands to make a quick job of it too!

Mme Cyn said...

Well, Mr. Goat, I have a doorknob and a piece of string. And I might even do it gratis, just for the pleasure.


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