Monday, March 19, 2007

Brits and their bloody teeth

I arrive at the dentist, post "jaw surgery," together with my inadequate and unco-operative teeth. There is no way to disguise the continued existence of the anterior open bite. We start badly. The receptionist asks me if I wish to clean my teeth, which I interpret as an accusation rather than a polite invitation; “Isn’t once first thing, and once before leaving enough, bearing in mind it’s only 10 in the morning?” She looks flustered and confused as much by my words as my tone. I rephrase, “you think I haven’t already cleaned my teeth?” Now she is more flustered and apologetic. She departs leaving me like the complete meany that I am.

In the dentist’s chair, he comes to check out the teeth.
“Bite” he commands. I obey. “No! Bite down,” he barks, almost. I obey. He mops his brow with a hand of frustration. “Here bite down on this.” He inserts a piece of blotting paper into my mouth. My attempts fail his test, which forces him to grip my bottom mandible, wiggle and giggle it and repeat his request. The hand slips to the brow and rakes the hair. “I can’t understand it? You had surgery over two months ago! Why don’t they join?” ‘Well if you don’t know, I certainly don’t,’ I think but do not voice, partly because it might appear rude and secondly because it’s difficult to talk when someone has a couple of large hands and far too many fingers in one smallish mouth. I have been relegated to the bottom of the teeth league, a failure. “You’ll have to go back to the surgeon and see what he has to say,” he puffs. The puff is a small, heavy, but lethal blow to my brain cells all of which scream ‘NO!’ in unison.

“Only one of them is touching in the front, can you see?” he asks no-one in particular. “Can you tell me where they join, where they touch?” he asks me. I shrug, as far as I’m aware, they don’t touch anywhere. “I can’t understand how you can eat? What are you eating, how does it feel?”
“Same as I have for the last 46 years, but I’m not eating anything except soup for the moment, and I don’t really feel anything.” This is not the answer that he requires, but I don’t know what the right one is? My teeth have never touched, how am I supposed to know what if feels like if they do, when they don’t? I have no terms of reference. I don’t chew anything I just swallow varying sized lumps of food whole, always have done, and at this rate, I probably always will do.

I find that my mind turns to dentures again, my first choice. To prevent such negativity, instead I think how it would feel to walk barefooted on a high wire. This is something I have never done. This is something that I never plan to do. I imagine how the wire would feel on the soles of my feet as I curled them around to get a grip. I can think about it, imagine it, but I can never really know how it would feel.

A discussion ensues two and a half feet above my head as a wide variety of staff members look at my mouth and chat to the dentist, as they debate over causes and possible remedies, all of which sound distinctly unpleasant. I twiddle with my glasses in my lap as armpits hover above my forehead. “I’ve never had it before. Ten days, two weeks and they snap into place. Are you sure you’re wearing the bands?” he addresses me, in a accusatory tone. “You doubt my veracity?” I squeak and then rephrase, “every day and every night, I never take them off and I put a new one on as soon as I swallow one.” He does a quick double take and whips out his drills as I bore deeper into my seat.

“It’s in the way, it’s too big and bulky,” he announces bearing down on me with the drill. “Why are you flinching, it’s only a crown, you wont’ be able to feel anything?” he queries. I beg to differ my son, I will feel a great deal in my pocket book! Have you any idea how much that very expensive crown cost my good man! I think but do not speak. I am being tiresome, he is growing impatient.

I peek at my watch, recall that school finishes early today. “You on a schedule?”
“Need to leave in 30 minutes.” He notices the whites of my eyes and recalls an earlier occasion when I had been delayed. His mind remembers how he had need to consult his liability insurance for injuries sustained on the premises not relating to treatment. He remembers sleepless nights of worry, trying to determine whether or not a frantic mother flying from the surgery and bonking her head on dental equipment, fell within his liability clause.

I am ‘released’ within the hour.

Moral – sow seeds in advance so that you may reap rewards later.