“I can assure you, Mrs Bailey – he won’t feel a thing.”
The conversation happened above me. I lay reclined dwarfed by the dentist’s chair. The procedure the dentist was talking about was the removal of my last remaining milk teeth.
All but my eye teeth had come loose and had been carefully wrapped in tissue and placed beneath my pillow. The exchange rate at the time was 10p per tooth. The remaining nashers were worth 40p to me and I was all for their apparent painless removal.
“Is there anything else going on I should be aware of?” the dentist asked looking down at me.
I told him that one of the big teeth at the back of my mouth occasionally tickled when I ate.
“No problem at all. We’ll do that one too.”
A flash of concern crossed my mother’s face.
“You mean you’ll fill it?”
The dentist gave my mother a patronising smile as if speaking to an imbecile.
“Well, we could fill it, but in my experience, you fill them and fill them and fill them and eventually they have to come out, so let’s just short cut the whole palaver.”
Nervously, my mother nodded her assent and that was the end of the appointment. We booked the follow-up to remove the first two eye teeth and left the building. When we returned, the dentist was right. The roots on the milk teeth were so shallow that it took the slightest encouragement to remove them. There was no pain. We booked the follow-up to remove the second two. Again, we turned up and, yet again, there was no pain. A tiny bit of wiggling and the teeth came free. We booked the final appointment to remove the large tooth that tickled occasionally when I ate.
When we turned up, although nothing was said, something was different. Despite the lovely weather, the dentist closed the windows. He reached for a tool that looked much more industrial than any he needed to remove the 4 milk teeth. I started to feel afraid. He put the tool into my mouth and clamped down on my rear tooth. Hard.
Instead of the delicate wriggling of the previous appointments, he started to violently wrench the tool to and fro. There was pain and a horrible crunching noise deep within my skull. He brought his knee up onto my chest for leverage. I was terrified and cried out. I don’t know how long it went on for, but it felt like forever. Eventually, the tooth came free.
He held it aloft like a trophy. It dwarfed the milk teeth.
“You see – I said you wouldn’t feel a thing.”
I staggered out into the waiting room and as soon as my mother saw me, she knew something was terribly wrong.
To this day, I remain terrified of any dental procedure. Although they struck the dentist from the register, it’s no consolation to me or to anyone else he savaged through unnecessary and brutal work. I cannot wait for the day when everyone has invisible nanites toiling endlessly to maintain their teeth. Until then – I’ll just ask them to hit me over the head with mallet number 4 every time I need some work done.
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