More dentistry

I tell you what, I don’t understand how the dental system works in this country, and I bet you a dollar to a drill-bit that you don’t, either. Is it public or is it private? If it is public, why do queues form round the block when a new dental practice opens?

I understand about the private ones. They have soft, seductive foyers, and, after they have pulled your teeth into contrary directions, they not only charge colossal amounts, but send you flowers to thank you for the privilege of having done so (my wife, who flosses etc., once made the mistake of joining something called The Contemporary Dentist, or something like it, and they did actually send a floral tribute in exchange for her having her mouth maladjusted). I just go along to the same old, same old practice, where I am on file under the same name as my son, always a trial, as our notes get mixed up, and where a new man took over a few years ago, when the original guy retired to spend more time with his money.

The new guy has no small talk. You could argue that this was a good thing, but actually a bit of banter and blather takes your mind off the coming nightmare. Why do dentists have such big hypodermics (an optical illusion, I expect)? Where the old dentist (my age) used to offer me tedious snippets of his life, the new one wrestles me into the chair and asks no questions, and takes no prisoners. He also works double-shifts. The last time he numbed me up, he had me out of the chair and into a waiting room before you could say Wrrrrrgh. This was so he could retrieve the other patient he had booked for my slot, as far as I could make out. He seemed to be working on the principle that dentistry was a lousy job, best got out of the way as soon as possible. At the rate he was going (is going) he will be on the golf course by the time he is 45, or possibly suffering from stress after nobbling two patients at a time for fifteen years.

I bumped into him in a supermarket once, and said Hello (I could do it with ease, because I hadn’t visited him in a bit). He recoiled as if I had bitten him – fat chance with these teeth. They cost me an arm and a leg, and I’ve only written that to show what a stupid phrase it is. They cost me a great deal of time, money, enamel and gum tissue.

No-one loves to go to a dentist. It must be a soul-destroying way of building up a colossal retirement fund, facing the frightened and the incompetent teeth-scrubbers. But at least they don’t use gas any more. I haven’t forgotten the sensation of the rubber mask being fitted over my face (nor the screams of my sister when they tried it on her – she’d had an eye operation which involved being put under, and wasn’t having any more rubber contraptions fitted. She got away with it.).

Worse, I do not know when I go, how much I will be hit for. It could be a mandatory and nugatory sum. It could be a set of options between £100 and £1000 (in which case, I will be told that only£1000 will do). But am I on the NHS? I don’t know. I think I am. The trouble is that, when you are asking questions, you make no sense. The new guy is just too quick.

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