Thursday 12 November 2009


As I casually bit into a carrot the other day, about the last thing I was expecting to find was a stone.... but there it was.
I imagine the carrot must just have grown around the stone and at some point assimilated it. When all you are expecting to bite down on is a nice crunchy carrot, this is somewhat less than ideal. My tooth was a bit sore, but nothing appeared to drop off, so I put the rest of my carrots to one side and tried to forget about it.

A few days later, and my tooth still seemed to be a bit sore, so I thought I'd better go and see the dentist to make sure I hadn't broken anything. My next scheduled appointment isn't until next June, but they managed to find me a slot this morning.

Over my life, I have had absolutely mountains of dental work done. It may come as news to anyone who has had to listen to me sounding off on any number of topics, but I've apparently got a very small mouth. I certainly had more teeth than I had mouth, and over the course of my teenage years I had a variety of extractions and orthodontic work done in an attempt to make my teeth vaguely presentable. If you can think of a type of brace, I've had it. I've had metal train tracks to pull my gappy teeth together; I've had a brace with a key that I turned once a week to open it out to widen the gap between the left and right sides of my jaw; I had a brace I had to bite down onto to level out the massive bow in my bottom teeth; I had a brace with hideous cheek plates that warped my whole face; I had some headgear that used elastic bands to push my teeth further back in my jaw..... even today, I've got a metal wire attached to the back of my bottom teeth to hold them straight. I had my wisdom teeth out too, naturally. No room for them in there, so out they came. Under local. Which wore off halfway through. As the dentist was wrestling with a tooth, practically with his foot on my chest as he pulled as hard as he could. Twist, twist, crack.

Yup. I've spent a lot of time at the dentists over the years and - perhaps oddly - the dental surgery doesn't really hold any fears for me. Luckily for me, in spite of the fact that all this pushing and shoving appears to have softened my teeth, I've not really needed much in the way of fillings since then, and my annual visits are usually short and sweet. I've noticed I'm becoming more nervous of these visits as I get older, but they happen so infrequently and I need so little done, that it's never been a problem.

I was a touch nervous this morning as I sat in the waiting room awaiting my appointment. I didn't know if I'd cracked my tooth or not, and I'd not seen this dentist before and so didn't really know what to expect. He was younger than me, of course, and he insisted on shaking my hand before I sat down in the chair. He then made small talk with me.... Goodness, I'd travelled a long way across Nottingham. Where did I work? Oh, that's not so far away from here. Have they started taking graduate recruits again, or has the programme been affected by the credit crunch? How long had I lived in the area? Where were my family from?

....and so on.

All very well, but as soon as he'd put the chair back, adjusted the lamp and started to poke around inside my mouth, I'd rather assumed that the small talk would come to an end. Does it qualify as small talk if there's only one person in the conversation? Isn't it a bit odd to be attempting to exchange pleasantries with someone who cannot reciprocate?

He seemed nice enough, but I found the whole thing slightly unsettling, and an image crept, unwanted, into my head:

Szell: Is it safe?... Is it safe?
Babe: You're talking to me?
Szell: Is it safe?
Babe: Is what safe?
Szell: Is it safe?
Babe: I don't know what you mean. I can't tell you something's safe or not, unless I know specifically what you're talking about.
Szell: Is it safe?
Babe: Tell me what the "it" refers to.
Szell: Is it safe?
Babe: Yes, it's safe, it's very safe, it's so safe you wouldn't believe it.
Szell: Is it safe?
Babe: No. It's not safe, it's... very dangerous, be careful.

Anyway. Apparently the tooth looks okay and I've probably just bruised a ligament.

I didn't even know teeth had ligaments....every day's a school day, right? Oh, and apparently I eat too much fruit too.

Just 364 days until my next appointment.

Szell: Oh, don't worry. I'm not going into that cavity. That nerve's already dying. A live, freshly-cut nerve is infinitely more sensitive. So I'll just drill into a healthy tooth until I reach the pulp. That is unless, of course, you can tell me that it's safe.....

Can't wait.


  1. I was never afraid of the dentist as a child, more recently though the thought of the possible expense brings me out in a cold sweat. About a year ago I was munching away on some muesli when I noticed a sharp edge with my tongue - long story short: that bowl of muesli cost me about £400.

  2. Though included in that price was a life sized sculpture of the affected tooth. That was cool.