The Tooth Hurts

My teeth and I have this mutual arrangement: I don’t bother them with difficult, crunchy foods like vegetables, and they don’t bother me by hurting. The same goes for dentists: I don’t make them take time out of their busy schedules to fiddle around in my mouth; they don’t drag me off the street and perform Marathon Man-styled tortures on me. All very equitable. All very friendly. Until last week…

I wouldn’t have been so miffed, if I had been breaking my rules, but the offending delicacy was not a breeze block, rolled steel joist or Stealth bomber. It was a slice of pizza, hardly the most challenging foodstuff known to man. But it was enough. At first, I thought I had merely got something stuck in a back molar on the left-hand side – but when I tried to dislodge it, I discovered a yawning gulf where the back of the tooth used to be.

The odd thing was how it didn’t hurt at all, and continued not hurting, despite my prodding at it sporadically with my tongue for the next couple of days. It was kinda therapeutic, like a dental version of scab-picking, but I tried to control myself for fear of all 32 teeth (well, 31.5 now) cascading out of my head in some bizarre domino effect. [I had a dream like that once: psychological interpretations of this found elsewhere on the Net were so radically different as to be useless – everything from “an archetypal image of the dreamer’s sense of confidence and competence” to “fear of sexual impotence”!]

Lacking in dental insurance, I briefly considered flying back to Britain for treatment on the good old NHS – even though my last regular dentist, in Scotland, died suddenly in circumstances that were never really explained to my satisfaction. However, wiser council (that’ll be Chris, in her usual role as calming influence!) prevailed, and I booked in with the family practitioner. After an initial consultation, it was decided to patch up things in there temporarily until the (hastily-acquired) dental insurance kicks in for large-scale treatment like this next year.

The actual patching was a lengthy and rougher affair, necessitating two shots of Novocaine, the first proving not enough to stifle my wriggling as the drill ground out what was left of the tooth. It was weird, feeling someone drilling away inside your mouth, seeing smoke rising from your face, yet the expected agony connected with such events was conspicuous by its absence. The anaesthetic left the entire left hand side of my face feeling as if it belonged to someone else – whose tongue is this, and what is it doing in my mouth? – but the amusement to be had hitting yourself in the face and not feeling a thing is significant.

Was pleasantly surprised by the cost – at $225, it probably wasn’t much more that I’d have ended up paying on the NHS for similar treatment. They’re muttering about bringing me back in for some fillings they discovered while they were in there, but I am already ahead of them, anticipating loading up on “da bling bling”, as I believe it is called by modern urban youth, and acquiring a mouthful of gold. Otherwise, I will be more than happy to return to our previous arrangement of mutual non-interference.