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Twixt Tooth And Gum
31 March, 2005
Different persons adopt different approaches to a dentist’s forbidding chair. My own approach has always been governed by a sense of acute apprehension, mounting efortlessly to abject fear! Like most fellow suffers I tend to hesitate and procrastinate before making that final appointment with doom. Eventually, the dreaded day is upon me.
Shivering and shaking I enter the torture chamber, and advance with caution towards the short, bald, inoffensive looking man, dressed in white.
“How do you do, Doctor”? I enquire, shaking his small hand. This visibly annoys him, because he has to go to a basin and wash again. While he is doing this, I move over to a cabinet of dangerous looking instruments, and examine them with extreme alarm. When I look away, I see the doctor standing impatiently beside his chair, with a grim _expression on his face. This does not seem to augur well for the immediate future.
Turning to jelly, I glide over to the chair, and collapse. “Is it going to hurt, doctor”? I ask, weakly, hoping to elicit his entire sum of sympathy.
His facial _expression changes too a look of disgust. “kindly open your mouth”, he commands, wishing to add, “and shut your trap!” in one hand he appears to be holding what looks like a six foot javelin. This he inserts into my gaping mouth, and it begins to probe a molar cavity. Thrust, and thrust again. Showers of sparkling stars cascade down an inky black sky. Desperately I begin to philosophise : Pain is an illusion. Don’t look at the doctor’s face. Think you are in a bar enjoying a drink. Think you’re anywhere but here!
The surgeon announces his verdict. “The tooth cannot be saved, it will have to come out”. Now he is holding a syringe with a ten foot needle. He is going to administer a pain killer. But what about the agony I’m in now never mind, pain is an illusion.
“Oh, Oh, Oh.”
When the needle is pulled out, I’m told to go back to the waiting room and read a magazine. I pick up the inevitable reader’s Digest and open to a page with a heading like this : How to Deal with Pain after an Operation. Fascinated, I digest the article, the pit of my stomach awash with juices of apprehension. Then I find that the right side of my face has swollen to the size of a football.
I am called back to the chamber, and I sink hopelessly into the chair, closing my eyes, thinking I’m sitting on Mount Everest. An enormous instrument seems to be moving around in the rear of my mouth, searching for tooth-hold. Finally, it succeeds. There is a deafening, crunching sound, and I am almost jerked out of the chair. I feel as though my head has, at last, a separated from my body. Then I fall back. The doctor is breathing heavily. “It’s out,” he says. I begin spitting blood and water into a small basin, a glass in my trembling hand.
I look up and see the Doctor mopping his brow. I smile and say : “It didn’t hurt at all, really!” He grunts.
Finally I thank him, shake his unwilling hand again, settle my bill in the waiting room, and walk into the street, a hero. An hour later the effects of the injection wear off.
“Oh, Oh, Oh,!”
25 October, 1991.