My parents spent a great deal of time on my junior orthodontics. Not money, though, thankfully: NHS dentistry was much easier to access in my youth (although read on for more news about that.) Still, the months I spent all braced up would, you’d expect, encourage me to look after my teeth into adulthood. Especially because the size and shape of the molars means they’re more likely than most to get decay in their deep cavities.
And I do, generally. I brush twice a day, one of those last thing at night, and floss when the fancy takes me. But making it to a dentist has always been difficult. Despite my mother being a dental receptionist I have a loathing of going to the surgeries, possibly because my oversensitive teeth can’t stand anyone fiddling with them, certainly not the dreaded hygienist.
More of an impediment is the fact we’ve moved house so often in the past few years. If you’re on a twelve-month lease it’s difficult to get organized enough to have more than one twice-yearly checkup, if that. We’re hardly deprived, but you can extrapolate from our situation to that of the insecurely housed, and see how they can fall through so many social frameworks that the middle class can settle themselves into over time. Anyway, it had been over three years since my last confession, that is to say checkup, and a few of my more sensitive teeth were starting to cause concern.
Now we hoped to stay in one place for a little longer, I decided I’d try to find a dentist. Last time I looked for an NHS dentist it was like hunting the snark, “the impossible voyage of an improbable crew to find an inconceivable creature.” However, things have changed, and while you can say what you like about the outgoing government, they did actually manage to quietly revolutionise NHS dental treatment. Now it seems that every dental surgery is incentivized to provide it, and if there’s really no vacancies the local PCTs seem to have NHS locum dentists who’ll at least bang your jaws together and pronounce you sound for the market or the knacker’s yard.
I’d like to say I lucked out finding Dr Sharon Lewis on Church Green, and in some ways I did: a friendly, efficient, sympathetic dentist who actually treats NHS patients. Today’s two injections hardly registered at all, and the whole thing was over in less than an hour from my arrival. But now, with the anaesthetic long gone and a day of work-weariness upon me, all I can think about is the whine of the drill and the rattle of that wicked, grinding device that then smooths down the surface ready for the filling. My teeth ache more than they ever did beforehand, as my flesh and nerves begin to revolt against the minor GBH that was inflicted on me for my own good, and all I want to do is sleep.
… Either that or eat a lot of conciliatory chocolate. Don’t tell Dr Lewis.