This morning I took Gothicdaughter to the dentist. A couple of weeks ago she managed to chip off a big chunk of tooth on the water fountain at school. (She clearly takes after me. The ability to injure myself in painful and humiliating ways on inanimate objects – what a genetic legacy to pass on. Sorry, Gothicdaughter. Let’s hope you didn’t get the pathological sarcasm too.)
Although the chip gave her smile a rather attractive, snaggle-toothed quality entirely in keeping with her personality, I begrudgingly took her to have it filled. Now I know dentists get a pretty bad press, and I’m not here to try and add to that. But there is something about going to the dentist that fills me with an icy sense of doom.
It’s not the actual physical pain. I don’t mind a bit of pain. Or, I should say, I have experienced childbirth so a bit of root canal work is pretty much neither here nor there.
(As an aside, a (male) friend of mine once commented that the pain of childbirth was nothing compared to the horrors of root canal work. Ladies, please feel free to use the comment section to record your thoughts on this opinion.)
Also, if the pain is going to be bad, the dentist can give you some gas and air, and that’s something I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on. A friend of mine once said that they should issue canisters of Gas and Air to all parents, to help them get through the day cheerfully. You could just have one in your kitchen, and just pop for a quick lungful when the parenting experience was starting to wear a little thin.
‘What’s that? Do I want to come and play Barbie’s tea party again?? Why of course darling, just give me a second, while I pop into the kitchen. <teeth clamp around mouthpiece, deep breath in> Ready!!! Can I be Ken this time?’
No, it’s not the pain I object to. What really brings me out in a sweat about going to the dentist is the fact that it seems to cost me a minimum of £800 every time I cross the threshold. Now, I know I am a child of the seventies and therefore rotted my enamel away years ago with Tizer and Texan bars, but still. I moved from my previous dentist after they installed a massive tropical fish-tank and a fancy water-cooler and then doubled the prices. Hmmmm. My new dentist is a kind of 1970s throwback that keeps its records on manilla cardboard files and they write down all the transactions in a Big Ledger*. Reassuringly low key and extremely cheap.
*the side-effect of this is that, this morning, while I was waiting to sign Gothicdaughter’s forms I was able to read on the Big Ledger the monthly turnover of 1970s Dentist. Holy Smoke. I think I might see if I can talk Gothicdaughter into becoming a dentist. It’s a profession with plenty of Gothic potential; should suit her down to the ground.
But the thing that really scares me to about a trip to the dentist is the guilt. Oh, and the lying. Every time I leave the dentist’s chair, I am resolved to take a toothbrush to work to brush after lunch, cut down on the Coke and, absolutely and positively, start flossing every day. I might even go and buy some floss straight away… and then put it in the bathroom cupboard next to the floss I bought last time. I just can’t bring myself to floss. It hurts for a start and makes my gums bleed in a way that makes me want to have a little cry. I also have the twin fear that I am going to (1) flip one of my teeth out and/or (2) get some floss stuck between my teeth permanently, so I have to walk around all the time with a bit of thread hanging out of the corner of my mouth. I think the children I teach would have something to say about that.
So when I am back in the dentist’s chair, six short months later, and he asks the loaded question, ‘So, have you been flossing every day?’ and I reply ‘Ungh’ because he has his fingers shoved in my mouth – well, he knows I’m lying. And I know he knows I’m lying. He will give me his best disappointed look and say something like ‘A woman of YOUR AGE can’t afford to take a lacksadaisical approach to gum health!’ And I am shamed, and then I go straight back to Boots for more floss – this time in a little plastic frame thing, which is going to definitely help my technique, for sure – and the whole cycle begins again.
The funny thing is that you’d think I would be more serious about stopping my teeth from rotting, because it’s one of my recurring nightmares, having all my teeth fall out. I read once that this means I fear responsibility, but I think it’s much more literal than that. I am a pretty literal person.
Anyway, my technique this time is to stick a picture of Shane McGowan on my bathroom mirror, to see if that fearful prospect will steady my flossing hand.
We’ll see how long that lasts.