Hell found Me. David and I sat on the plastic seats and looked around us. The dentists’ surgery was busy today, when wasn’t it? Here we sat for David’s six monthly check up and after that, my extraction. I couldn’t look nervous, could I? I had to be the strong one because David, at the age of eight, needed my support. I gave him a comic to read. His face was white. He always got that sweaty, white look when he was nervous.
I was lucky, lucky! Huh! I was lucky to be fitted in at such short notice. Lucky I was not, when I bit into that delicious piece of toast yesterday and heard my back tooth crack ominously. Spitting out the larger part of the tooth, I regarded it with contempt and wondered if I could use the super glue and stick it back in. No, I think not. The edges felt jagged. Soon my tongue was sore and yet I couldn’t leave it alone. Every spare minute my tongue sort out the roughness and returned to its usual position more red and more sore than before.
“Good morning. This is Mrs. Smith, I have an appointment tomorrow for my son David, for his six monthly check up and now I have broken one of my back teeth. Could I please see the dentist as well?”
“Which dentist do you see Mrs. Smith?”
“He’s not in tomorrow. He’s on holiday. We have a stand in dentist. His name is Mr. Adam. I’ll put you in as an emergency, after David. Don’t eat anything for an hour or so before you come, just in case.”
“Thank you,” I grovelled, remembering the dentist’s receptionist as a grumpy, fat woman with a body odour problem.
Hell found me in the surgery on that glorious August morning.
The appointment was at 9.30 a.m and, since I had not enjoyed breakfast that morning, I began to feel my tummy rumbling and groaning in its emptiness.
“You can go in now, Mrs. Smith”
I gently touched David in the centre of his back to encourage him to move towards the dentist’s room. He looked up at me with his big blue eyes and I felt like a traitor.
“It’s o.k.” I told him. “You’ll be all right.”
We walked towards the dentist’s chair but one look at the dentist in his white coat told David that here was a doctor and doctors were for kicking. He sat in the chair when told to do so but as soon as it started to move upwards, up came his right leg, kicking the dentist right where it hurts the most. Normally, David is a good little boy and gives me no trouble but when in the doctor’s surgery, he transforms into the child from hell and there is very little anyone can do with him.
The dentist glared at him and then looked across at me. “Does he always behave like this, Mrs. Smith?”
“No,” I lied. “He’s usually very good.”
“Well we shan’t get very far if he does that again,” Mr. Adam retorted.
David saw the look on my face and lay back but when Mr. Adam tried to look in his mouth, he refused to open it and that was that, we got no further.
“You’ll have to hold him still,” Mr. Adam commanded.
“I can’t do that. That is your job. You should have a bedside manner.”
As a mother, I felt defensive. I thought Mr. Adam had obviously not had very much to do with children. He had not done a thing to gain David’s confidence.
“You’ll have to take him home then.”
“I’m not doing that,” I answered. “I’ll never get him back here again, if I do that.”
“David,” I said with authority. “Sit still and open your mouth NOW.”
That worked. David opened his mouth for the dentist and the check up took place.
Then it was my turn. The nurse took David away into the waiting room to read his comic and I sat in the chair.
“What’s the trouble, Mrs. Smith.”?
“I’ve broken my back tooth,” I mumbled, with my finger in my mouth, pointing to the offending tooth but obliterating speech in so doing.
“Let’s have a look then.”
Mr. Adam leaned into me with his little mirror that looked like a toothbrush. Straight away I breathed on it and it steamed up. He wiped it. Then he tried again.
“Ah, yes, I see the trouble. You’ve broken it right down to the gum line, unfortunately. You have two choices, either “we” take it out or you can have a crown.”
“How much do the crowns cost?”
“They start at £100 and go up to £300, depending on the type of crown you have.”
I did some mental arithmetic concerning income and expenditure for the month and decided that the extraction was the best option.
“Take it out please.” I said, humbly, not feeling very brave.
“Are you taking any medication at the moment.”?
“No,” I replied.
“Right, well, let’s get on with it then. I’ll just give you a little injection.”
He leaned across and picked up a huge needle. It looked huge because he was holding it right in front of my face and it didn’t shrink when he moved a bit further away. Was it pleasure I saw on his face as he inserted the needle deep into my gum, three times in different places? The bitter cocaine filled my gums and a trickle of it ran down my jaw.
“There, now, just go and wait in the waiting room for a few minutes until that takes effect and then we’ll blow the little tooth away for you” he reassured me.
Ten minutes later the whole of the left side of my face was frozen and I found I couldn’t talk properly. The lips felt numb, large and fleshy. I touched them with my fingers to make sure they were still there. My cheek was numb too, so when I returned to the dentist’s chair, I felt fairly confident that I wouldn’t feel any pain. Leaning back in the chair I felt all my blood rushing towards my head, which was considerably lower that then rest of me. Shining into my eyes was a bright dentist’s lamp threatening to give me a migraine at any minute.
I looked towards the ceiling. Was God with me this morning or was he hiding behind a cloud? There was nothing, absolutely nothing to look at on the ceiling, no flies, no cracks, nothing, just a white nothingness. I looked again at the lamp, thinking maybe I would pass out and not know any more about this morning.
“Can you feel this, Mrs. Smith?” he asked me, banging my broken tooth with his drill.
“Yes,” I uttered.
“And this?” he asked again, as he prodded my lip with another sharp instrument.
“No,” but this time, I wasn’t sure. I thought I did feel a little sensation.
“I’ll give you a bit more anaesthaetic. You must have a very dense bony plate under that tooth.”
He gave me another injection, waited a little while. It felt more numb.
“First I’m going to press down into your gum, and then the tooth will move more easily.”
Mr. Adam reached across to his little shelf and picked up one of his instruments. I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to see it. Then he grasped my tooth with it and pressed down into the gum. Nothing moved. I looked up into his face anxiously. I could see right up into his nose. I could see little hairs in there, which were sticking out. I could see something else in there too but I looked away. I looked at his forehead. It looked sweaty. Realising he was nervous too, I felt more anxious. The mask he had over his mouth went in and out with his breathing.
He tried again, still no movement. Ten minutes went by. Then he announced: –
“The roots of this tooth are wrapped around your jaw. I will just have to free them for you.”
By this he meant that he would have to saw through them with a miniature saw, only it didn’t look miniature when he held it up to my mouth. He started to saw. I felt no pain, only anxiety. My heart began to pound. Blood filled my mouth. There was still no movement. My tooth was proving difficult and that is an understatement.
I had visions of tooth roots like snakes winding round and round my jaw bone. In my imagination the roots grew longer and longer…
Another five minutes went by. Mr. Adam scratched his head.
“I just want to pop downstairs a minute and speak with Mr. Johnson, the senior partner. I won’t be long.”
He left the room, leaving me in a panic. Tears sprang from my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. My whole face felt numb but I knew that the numbness wouldn’t last for long.
When Mr. Adam returned, he had Mr. Johnson with him. Mr. Johnson looked inside my mouth and frowned.
“Try cutting into the jaw to free the roots,” he suggested.
Mr. Adam looked reluctant to do that but Mr. Johnson remained where he was and once again Mr. Adam sat in his seat. He took out the saw and sawed again. I nearly passed out. At this point I started to pray.
“Please God, if I get out of here alive, I will promise to be a good citizen every day for the rest of my life, only please spare me, I beseech you.”
My back was running with sweat, the tears were running. I was terrified. Hell had found me in that dentist’s chair.
“Make haste,” said Mr. Johnson. “The anaesthetic will soon be wearing off.
At last the sawing stopped. The tooth came out. Mr. Adam packed it. That means he took from a sterile tray, a small hard lump of dressing about the size of a peanut and placed it in the hole where the tooth had been to staunch the blood.
I heard the tooth fall into a tray with a clink. It was the best sound I had heard in a long time.
“All done, Mrs. Smith. You’ve been very brave.”
I was speechless. Slowly my head was raised to the normal position as the chair moved downwards. I could feel the sensations returning.
“It might be an idea to have an aspirin when you get home,” suggested Mr. Adam.
Mr. Johnson left the room and returned to his own patients.
Fumbling in my pocket, I found a large white handkerchief, which I placed against my mouth. My legs felt weak and I doubted that I would be able to stand up.
Somehow, I managed to lift myself off the chair and walk to the waiting room, where a host of anxious people were waiting. I realised that I had held them all up and they would all be late. David was waiting for me, playing with some bricks, which had been provided for the children.
Together we walked out of the surgery, down the steps and up the road to our home.