Down in the mouth

Sometimes, extraneous factors have a habit of imposing themselves on your lifestyle choices. For example, I could never be a vegetarian, for the simple reason that I don't like vegetables -- no matter how subtly they're cooked, it still can't make up for the lack of a central nervous system. And similarly, while there are some facets of the S/M scene which appeal, I'm limited by the fact that I have absolutely no tolerance for pain and suffering at all. Which is also why this Tuesday was a day ringed in the calendar with black ink, since it marked my first visit to the dentist in the best part of a decade.

This lackadaisical approach was not, it has to be said, entirely of my own making. My previous dentist, C.K.White of Forres, went and died on me, and signing up for another torturer was never exactly high on my list of priorities. Such things tend to be done on a needs-must basis: I've been in Tulse Hill for seven years now, and I still haven't got a doctor, despite there being one approximately fifty yards up the road. As long as my teeth didn't bother me, I wouldn't bother them, and having encountered no problems in coping with medium-rare steak, I was inclined to leave well alone.

However, the planned departure for pastures foreign would remove me from the tender mercies of the NHS and abandon me to the rapacious private health sector - "one filling? That'll be $27,500". Poor people in America frequently have all their children's teeth extracted at once, purely for financial reasons, y'know... It thus made sense to get something back for ten years of National Insurance payments, while I still had the chance, and so I registed with the "Gloria Dental Centre", conveniently located near Tulse Hill Station. Not too sure about the name (I'd have preferred something brutally honest, such as 'Tortures R Us'), but it's apparently tough enough to find anyone happy to acquire NHS patients. Paranoia suggested this willingness was due to a rash of sudden, inexplicable deaths on their current patient roster...

Having made an appointment, I then had to suffer the traditional week of hypochondria and psychosomatic concern. Every mouthful of food was analysed -- was that crunching sound my teeth falling out, or merely a particularly crispy piece of pork pie? Tooth brushing took on an almost religious significance - I flayed my gums until they bled - and flossed, rinsed and gargled like a student indulging in last-minute cramming, hoping to make up for years of benign neglect. The day dawned and, after one last polish, I entered the chamber of horrors...

Of course, the actual event proved to be something of an anti-climax. Had an X-Ray (I was tempted to ask if they did enlargements, or could make it into coasters), discovered my old fillings were a bit worn, I need to floss more, and I've got to go back next week for cleaning. Not quite the sewing-up of my mouth, with a "This Property is Condemned" sticker placed over my lips, which I'd feared. I was impressed by the technological advances: C.K.White was an old-school dentist, who largely worked with pliers and his knee on your chest; the surgery here had a chair that tilted back so far I could feel the blood rushing to my head, and even had a television set playing music videos to distract you. Mind you, I now associate Britney Spears with having things stuck in my mouth, a reversal of most guys' Britney-inspired thoughts.

But I've learned my lesson: no more shirking my toothsome responsibilities. I hereby vow to make regular trips to the dentist from now on. Every seven years. Whether I need to or not...


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