trips to the
dentist get harder as we
older? This occurred to me yesterday as the dentist squeezed the third load of
made an appointment when
the dull pain in my jaw moved around to my ear. This happened
ast year, she told me that I had probably been grinding my teeth at night because
of some excess
boozing on holidays, and it might settle down after a few days.
It did and I forgot about the tooth until a few weeks ago when it started giving me grief again. So in I went, all ready to act a bit ashamed about my drinking on holidays, because when an Irish Catholic goes to the dentist, it reminds us of our childhood days in confession. My dentist (who is brilliant, by the way) didn’t give me three Hail Marys and a Glory be To God. This time, I got an extraction.
The tooth was fractured, it had to come out,
she told me. I nodded away
like a reasonable adult, while inside I was having a mortality crisis. This tooth has been with me for about 48 years – is this extraction the beginning of the end? (This kind of panic happens a lot in your mid-50s. I’ve a sore knee at the moment, I’m not taking that very well either.)
My more immediate problem was that
I’m a complete wuss with a pain threshold down around my ankles. I thought about trying to worm out of it, to tell the dentist I’d be back another day because I had to be somewhere in half an hour.
That was a non-runner –
my dentist has a look that says ‘you’re not going anywhere, open your mouth
while I numb your gums’.
The problem with a tooth extraction in your mid-50s is that it’s probably been a while since your last one. In the intervening years, you’ve probably watched Laurence Olivier drill Dustin Hoffman’s teeth without anaesthetic in the movie
The anaesthetic injections took a minute, but it felt like an hour. There was no
pain at any stage, but the sense of helplessness freaked me out. I tried to
hide my discomfort
because the word on the street is that dental work is a dawdle now compared to the bad old days when we were growing up.
I’m not so sure about that.
The pliers that takes out your tooth might be a bit more hi-tech, but it’s still a pliers.
How do we ever
back into the dentist for a second visit,
I wondered as she tugged away at my broken tooth.
My son gave me a hint when I
arrived home later
and he asked did I get a lollipop.
told me that the dentist was using me to get money from the tooth fairy, which gave me a
decent guffaw despite
my numbed mouth.
My two kids don’t see anything wrong with a trip to the dentist, at least not yet. It must be something that we learn over time. As a child, you’re used to feeling helpless and being told what to do – now that I’m an adult I think there must be some way I can get out of this.
Before I left, the dentist gave me the usual lecture about flossing regularly. I nodded away, but I can’t see myself doing it. I hate flossing more than a trip to the dentist to get the plaque blasted off with an air gun. It’s too late to change my ways on that front. But it’s not too late to make sure my kids look after their teeth better than I did.
I met my mother after the extraction and she told me that all her teeth had been taken out when she was my age. I’d like to think my kids will have all their teeth into their 60s and 70s. Particularly if it spares them a trip to the dentist.