Dreaming of some rubbish as you do, or rather, as I do, I was busy eating something. There was something hard in my sandwich (or whatever I was meant to be eating) and I nearly bit down on it.
Instead I spat it out of my mouth (still in the dream) and then woke up with a start – sat up – and picked something out of my mouth. A wisdom tooth that had been slightly wobbly for some time.
I dashed for the antiseptic mouthwash aka Smirnoff Blue vodka, swilled some around my mouth and spat it out. Yes, I know it’s a waste, but drinking vodka at 3am isn’t my style.
‘Got toothache?’ called Partner, as he knows it’s the only reason for me reaching for the vodka bottle. In fact, it’s the only reason we have a bottle of vodka in the house.
‘No, a wisdom tooth fell out.’
‘Oh, OK,’ he said. And went back to sleep. As did I.
My wisdom teeth were fairly late coming through. I was at university. For some reason, my dentist said they needed filling as soon as they had arrived.
Someone who didn’t eat sweets, sugar, cakes, drink pop/fizzy drinks – needs wisdom teeth filling immediately they appear?
But he was an OK dentist (he was the one who recommended the vodka for twingey teeth) so three of them got filled. The fourth never appeared. Still hasn’t.
He was only the third dentist I’d had. The first was Uncle John, one of my dad’s mates, who was extremely nice, ie he didn’t fill my teeth and gave me little tubes of toothpaste every time I visited. He also had a jar of sweets which I didn’t bother with. How clever is that? Give kids sweets to rot their teeth and earn more dosh for dentists.
My dad must have got sick of the drive there however, because it was two or three towns away, and we stopped going.
We eventually found a local one. I was the guinea pig and came out from there moaning and crying in pain. The dentist and my parents told me to stop being a baby. My dad went later, came out with a jaw that was black and blue and we changed dentists. I considered myself vindicated of the previous criticism. Or perhaps even avenged.
So then we visited the vodka dentist for some years. He started working less hours and his son took over.
His son decided my wisdom teeth needed to come out. Oh no.
‘They must be giving you problems,’ he said.
‘Well, we’ll keep an eye on them.’
At school in sixth form, we had a chess club. By that time, there were only three of us left who had started together aged four in Kindergarten, and gone right through prep, junior and senior school. Fiona asked me to go to chess club on Friday lunchtimes, so off we went to learn the basics.
After that, we would happily play together on Fridays in our sixth form block. I have no doubt we were rubbish, but we enjoyed ourselves. Until the day she went to have her wisdom teeth out and was off school for nearly two months. Two months without chess! And, when I spoke to her on the ‘phone, that’s when she could actually speak after the operation and the pain was easing, she told me what a horrible experience it had been.
No. I figured I would hang onto my wisdom teeth. Even if they had been unnecessarily filled.
Once in Newcastle, I asked colleagues for a recommended dentist. Dr Payne, suggested one of them – laughing – although she assured me he was very good and no pain at all. He wasn’t.
‘I think those wisdom teeth need to come out….’
Repeat of previous conversation. No more Dr Payne.
A few years later I asked another colleague for a recommend. This time, I didn’t mess around with non-clinical colleagues but asked our dental consultant in public health, with whom I got on well, even though we disagreed about fluoridation.
We had a long discussion about the ethics (ie lack of) around unnecessary drill and fill, how a small amount of decay could actually be left, and he suggested someone who he thought was a good dentist both in terms of work and attitude. In the days of decreasing NHS treatment, he was also still accepting NHS patients.
So off I went. I was still sucked into believing professionals and thinking They Knew Best.
‘Have you not had any pain from those wisdom teeth?’
Oh no. All over again.
‘We’ll have to look at them next time and consider taking them out.’
There was no next time.
And that, dear reader, was my last visit to a dentist. It was in August before I went to Madrid for a long weekend, but I can’t remember which year because it was so long ago. Nineteen ninety something is as near as I can get.
So thirty-something years later, one of my wisdom teeth finally decided to part company with me. It never caused me a problem and it didn’t when it just dropped out in the night.
I put it on the floor waiting for the tooth fairy to bring me a sixpence. Or maybe 5P with inflation. No, the tooth was still there in the morning.
His two surviving colleagues are still hanging in there. Literally. I wonder when they will fall out?
The Spanish have a wonderful phrase – la caida de los dentes – the falling out of the teeth. I reckon I have reached that age.
I do have other dental stories, from India, Australia, and Spain. But this one is about wisdom teeth.
Partner suggested drilling a hole through it and putting some string through, sort of like a shark’s tooth hung around my neck. I’m not too sure about that.
Here for the non-squeamish is my untroublesome tooth. I couldn’t see any obvious decay, and the only discolouration is due to that horrible filling that I so don’t think I needed.
I think the dark stuff around the middle is blood, and possibly flesh. Anyway, they are obviously called wisdom teeth because they are far wiser than dentists, and choose their own time to appear – and disappear.
Trust your teeth and not your dentist.