On Monday morning I walked down to our local dentists’ surgery here in Anstruther, looking out over the harbour, and to the noise of what sounded like my jaw being cracked open I had my lower-left wisdom tooth removed.
It had been rather naughty for quite a few years and so had to come out. It had never really come in properly, was crowding the back of my mouth quite uncomfortably at times (mostly when my mouth had visitors) and to top it all the dentist suggested that it may also have had a low-grade infection simmering there for quite a while, years perhaps.
Everything must go
Following a sudden bout of toothache about a month ago, numerous emergency visits to the dentist and two courses of antibiotics the decision was made: it had to go. The appointment was booked, the date arrived, I was psyched up and conveniently was sitting in a dentist’s chair with a needle in my mouth receiving the first of three injections to numb my tooth. (And jaw. And tongue.)
I don’t know if you’ve ever had a tooth removed. For all the advances in medical science tooth extraction really does still come down to poking it with a pointy metal stick to get it loose and then pulling it out with a pair of pliers.
The dentist that was treating me, Dr John O’Neill was brilliant. He is, by far, the best dentist I’ve ever seen. I’ve learned more about how to look after my teeth properly in about four visits to him than in years of visiting a dentist.
What struck me most was the time he took to speak to me and listen to me before he even went near my mouth. He put me at ease, explained clearly what he was doing, why he was doing it and answered any questions that I had.
Brilliant! If only all dentists were like that.
The scariest part of the whole procedure for me was when he had what looked to me like a big metal screwdriver in my mouth, pushing against my tooth. He was really giving it some force, and my fear was that it would slip and I’d suddenly have a pointy piece of metal skewering my cheek.
“I have done this before,” he assured me.
Yeah, but I hadn’t.
It didn’t last long. Job done: the large pointy piece of metal had successfully dislodged my tooth. I had a wobble in my tooth that any nine year old would be proud of.
Then the pliers were unsheathed.
It’s quite an unusual experience to have a grown man removing one of your teeth with pliers; it’s a very physical act. I feel quite protective about my teeth at the best of times — I use them on an almost daily basis — so to allow someone to remove one really does take courage and will-power.
CRACK! … CRACK!
“Oh, yeah,” the dentist said. “I forgot to mention the sound.”
It sounded like my jaw had been broken.
And then the dentist stood back, pliers in hand, a bloody tooth clamped securely in the jaws of the pliers (rather than clamped securely in the jaws of my … erm, jaws).
The pain once the anaesthetic wore off wasn’t too bad. It did hurt. And it did throb. But it wasn’t as bad as I had feared.
Until Wednesday, when the pain was excruciating. I phoned the dentist from my office in St Andrews at 11:20 and was sitting in the dentist’s chair at 12:10. I had a dry socket which the dentist washed out and then partially filled with Alvogyl which the dentist told me is an antiviral, antifungal, antiseptic, antibomb, antijean, antieverthing dressing material comprised of tiny brown fibres soaked in, what can only be described as, the taste of Hell!
Still, the pain went. For the best part of the day.
It’s back again. I may be visiting my local, friendly dentist again soon.