Last week, I had a routine check-up at the dentist.
I can only assume that, when dentists refer to ‘routine check-ups’, the ‘routine’ element relates to the regularity of attendance that you are expected to adopt (usually every six months or so), because there is nothing even remotely routine, or normal, about the shit they put you through in the name of oral hygiene.
It takes a particularly sadistic type of sociopath, to want to be a dentist. I’ll accept that some are forced into the profession, perhaps by parents who are/were dentists themselves, but the vast majority, at some point in their formative years, have consciously decided that they want to inflict pain for a living.
The signs are most likely there from childhood. If you spot a kid in the playground, bullying someone, or pulling the legs off spiders, then you can almost guarantee they will later fall into one of three careers. The truly nasty, with no morals whatsoever, will end up in organised crime. Of the remainder, their chosen career path will depend on their intellect: the clever nasties will go into dentistry, whilst the not-so-clever nasties will become traffic wardens.
Of course, some (privileged) children will attend public school, where all the nasties will become Tory politicians, but I’m going to assume that most – if not all – of my readers, do not fall into this category.
Anyway, because I now take Ollie to school three days a week, and because the surgery doesn’t open until 9am, it made sense to combine the two for my latest visit. So, to give me time to walk there from the playground, I arranged an appointment for 9.10am, meaning I wouldn’t be too late to work afterwards.
Having arrived on time (just), and having completed the customary ‘yes, I have to pay for the oral violation I am about to receive’ form, I went upstairs to the little waiting room, and took a seat.
I had no intention of reading a magazine at this point, but rather than just sit and stare into space (which Brits hate doing in waiting rooms, lest we accidentally make eye-contact with another person), I opted to flick through the selection of reading material on the coffee table. Of course, all magazines in waiting rooms have been donated by people who have finished with them, and the sort of people who donate their tatty magazines to dental surgeries, are not my sort of people.
The entire selection (and there must have been at least twenty magazines), were all either Tractor and Farm Heritage, Improve Your Coarse Fishing or Vogue.
Sadly, I have no interest in agricultural machinery, even less interest in fishing, and not only will I never understand women, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to announce my femininity to the rest of the room, so I adopted my very best ‘well, these are all shit’ expression, and returned to my seat.
The thing is, I knew they were going to be shit, and all the other victims in the waiting room knew they were going to be shit, but it’s a routine Brits must adhere to when in this situation: we approach, we rummage, we look disappointed, we return to our seat empty-handed. Everyone else in the waiting room then nods in agreement/approval/sympathy, and we move on, until the next new victim arrives, and the cycle begins again.
Having re-assured myself, that it is only really aeroplanes and hospitals where mobile phones supposedly fuck with electrical equipment, and since there was no petrol station within a half mile radius (not that there is a single reported case of a phone triggering an explosion at a petrol station ever), I opted to check my e-mails and Facebook, while waiting to be called through.
Since the surgery only opened ten minutes before my appointment, I naively assumed that I wouldn’t be kept waiting for very long (save for any local dental emergency, which required all qualified personnel to be scrambled to the scene immediately). I was slightly shocked, therefore, when 9:20am came and went; I was downright angry when 9:25am ticked by; and I was fucking apoplectic as we reached 9:30am, and the dental technician finally called me through.
The dentist greeted me with a smirk (presumably in gleeful anticipation of the anguish she was about to inflict).
“Sorry we’re running a bit late.”
“Sorry? I have to be at work in half an hour, and unless you’ve got a spare helicopter on the roof, I’m sure as hell not going to be. What the fuck were you doing, to make you so late? Because unless it was a particularly difficult shit, which, frankly, you should have had at home, there’s nothing you can say to me by way of an acceptable apology.”
Of course, I didn’t actually say that. Like all British people, I responded with:
“It’s fine, I was just brushing up on my coarse fishing. How thoughtful to put some entertaining reading material out for your victims.”
She invited me to lie down on her chair of terror, and as I did so, I immediately noticed the quirky ‘100 Cats and a Mouse’ puzzle on the ceiling, which was like a vermin version of ‘Where’s Wally?’.
I assume it was placed there to distract frightened children, rather than grown adults, but frankly I would have focused on a picture of Ann Widdecombe naked, if it meant diverting my attention from what was about to happen (and projectile vomiting would surely have done that). Of course, because the puzzle was intended for children, I found the bloody mouse in about three seconds, and then silently chastised myself, for not saving this activity for the main event.
Then, without warning, the co-torturer (going under the guise of ‘dental assistant’), suddenly began lowering and reclining the seat, and I can only assume that she too became distracted by the Cat and Mouse picture above us (even though I felt sure she must have noticed it before – unless it had only been placed there that morning, which would at least explain why my appointment was so late), because she reclined me so far, I genuinely feared I would topple backwards.
Thankfully, the dentist then declared that she had finished whatever she was doing (presumably Googling pictures of oral torture), and was ready to commence her assault. Relieved, I felt sure that she would notice her assistant’s error, and rectify my wholly unnatural gradient. Sure enough, as soon as she turned around, I heard her say “Oh, let’s sort this chair out for you, shall we?”
“Yes please, because if any more blood runs to my head, I may well lose consciousness, and then we can all see that, such is my current centre of gravity, I’ll topple backwards, and you’ll be getting one of my size 11 shoes square in your mush. So if you could just… wait…. what the fuck are you doing now? Why are you reclining the chair more? No, don’t lower it as well, I’m nearly on the floor as it is. Have you ever operated one of these before, you stupid witch? What’s the matter with you?”
Of course, all of this was screamed internally, rather than out loud, but when the chair finally stopped, my feet were so close to the damn cats I could have kicked them, and my face was, well, there’s no easy way to put this, but I was in very close proximity to her crotch.
“Yes, I can see that, do you mind closing them?”
“What? No, can you open your mouth, please?”
“Oh, right, yes.”
It was at this point, that she shoved a surgical-gloved finger into my mouth, and started prodding around. I realise this is standard procedure, but can’t help thinking that if the gender roles were reversed, and I was lowering a horizontal (and clearly frightened) woman towards my crotch, so that I could poke a finger in her mouth, I would be reported as some kind of sexual deviant.
Not dentists though, oh no.
And why do they wait until your mouth is wide open, and their various implements are firmly jammed in there, to start asking you questions?
“Any problems with sensitivity?”
“Yeth, a lithle. I cwied at a storwy on the newth the uffer day.”
“No, any sensitivity in your teeth?”
“I know whath you meanth. I wath twying to be funny.”
“Don’t. Have you cut back on sugary food?”
“Not wearly. I hath a bag of candyflosh at the fwair yetherday.”
“Please stop joking.”
“I’m noth. I was delithous.”
Following ten minutes of scraping with a decidedly sharp metal implement, and jabbing it into my gums to see if they were sensitive (“well, they fucking are now, love”), she had to accept that I had been brushing my teeth really well (patronising cow), and had ‘excellent gums’. This didn’t seem as complimentary as when the lady at the running shop told me I had excellent calf muscles a couple of weeks ago, but that might be because she didn’t torture me beforehand. Still, I now had excellent gums to add to my excellent calf muscles, and whilst these aren’t necessarily two of the first things that women find attractive in a man, people couldn’t deny that I was turning into quite the impressive specimen.
There is no greater relief in life, than finding out you don’t need to have any dental work done, and better still don’t have to return for another check-up for a whole six months (which feels more like three months, but I was happy nonetheless), so I left smiling, proudly displaying my excellent gums to everyone I passed.
In fact, I was so pleased with my clean bill of (dental) health, I celebrated with a large packet of sweets on the drive to work.