(A word of caution: the post below is not for the squeamish. If you are squeamish, read something else, e.g. on people’s livelihoods and lives being ruined all over the world by (not just) the West’s need for more political power, more and bigger cars, cheaper thongs, more malls, more sophisticated weaponry and a greater variety of half-eaten burgers. These are not disturbing topics, teeth getting drilled (as below) is. But enough with irrelevant musings, here is the post:)
I dislike going to the dentist. Now, that was deep, I know. The reason I don’t like going to the dentist is not the so much the pain or, even, the expectation of pain. It is the helplessness, with you lying on a chair and staring at your flat (in my case, at least, as the dentist is right opposite where we live) and someone fumbling in your open mouth, filling it with chemical smells and tastes and — sometimes — those of putrefaction. It is the maddening thought that tiny white bones surrounded by genitally-tissued flesh and wedged into your mandibles can cost you so much time, pain, money. It is the usually bad news that follows a visit to the dentist: a slight sensitivity? to cold? Ah, well, oh, it looks like we’ll have to drill and fill. Hm, this one runs quite deep. Does it hurt at, say 2 am? No? Hm, then we might not need to pluck the nerve out.
“Do you think the decay has reached that deep?”
“This is possible, yes.”
“Please shoot me with your best.”
No way. If I went numb, then we would not be able to tell how close to the pulp the decay had reached. I said to myself ‘yikes’ but to the dentist I said:
“Fine, but I will moan and sigh. And if it gets really uncomfortable, I will raise my left hand, so that I don’t scream into your prying face.”
And the pioneering dentist drilled on and on, deeper and deeper. “Oh, look at all this blood!” (no, I wouldn’t, thanks), she exclaimed. “Ouch, the gum has grown over this.” (‘what? I dunno. Why didn’t you bother checking this out before Xmas, when I came for polishing? Huh?’ I said to myself, once more.)
Its rotations were sending ripples of mild pain through the thinnest film of dentine separating the drill head and the pulp, alternating with the numbing pain of the chilly air cleaning up the debris — a sensation that is to me the closest approximation to the painful numbness of bereavement.
There was no actual acute pain at any moment, though.
When she finished she showed me on the inevitable tooth chart hanging on the wall next to her SCUBA certificates what had happened: the decay had started low and had internally proceeded upwards, only just bypassing the pulp. In fact so ‘just’, I could now feel my pulse throbbing in the tooth. “So, if I had given you the anaesthetic, I would have had to go straight for plucking the nerve out, because I would not have known how nasty the thing would be. It would make me seven times the money, of course, too.
She amended my dental record with a caveat for the future. She explained:
“So, this is tooth 17. We have three kinds of decay, according to their depth: caries supeficialis, caries media and caries profunda.
Yours is caries profundissima.”
I guess all that could be a fine start for an allegory on morality, its white material covertly eaten away by bacteria, turning it into shite and threatening its very livelihood. But this would be both a bit contrived and uninteresting, wouldn’t you think? 😉