It’s time for my dental check up. Every six months it’s the same routine.
I sit in the cold expanse of the waiting area, this sterile space. There is a woman sat across from me looking forlorn. I wonder what is wrong with her. Perhaps it’s a root canal. The room is bright due to the huge skylight above allowing clean, bright light from the overcast sky above to fall over us. This bright light is a complete contrast to the mood in this waiting area.
Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever struck up a conversation with a stranger in a dentist waiting room. I’ve never seen it done between others. I guess it’s just an unwritten but widely understood law of the urban jungle.
The silence and tension is broken by the sound of the receptionist’s phone ringing and being answered by a miserable young woman in dental nurse uniform. Why is she so miserable? Perhaps she had hoped to achieve more in life. Perhaps she doesn’t like having to wear a dental nurse uniform when really, she’s a receptionist. If I went to the front desk of a fire station, I’d be surprised to be welcomed by the lady on the front desk dressed in a full fireproof outfit, yellow helmet and breathing apparatus. Then again maybe they should. Maybe they are not maintaining the same high standards and professionalism of my dentist.
Or maybe I’m not giving the receptionist enough credit. Perhaps she is a dental nurse and as such she is always dressed, prepared, ready for action. If someone suddenly suffers from an unexpected assault of mass saliva and blood, filling their mouth, whilst waiting in the designated waiting area, not to worry, for the miserable lady behind the desk, with the reactions of a cat, will leap over the counter, ramming one of those suction tubes into the victims mouth, removing all blood, all saliva and all dignity.
Hey, it could happen.
The wait is dull. I’m not particularly worried. Nothing has been bothering me. This is just routine this time, so it’s not as daunting as what it could be. But at least there is an array of magazines to read. It’s nice to read about how Martine McCutcheon is leaving Eastenders in the hope of pursuing a music career and an article entitled “At home with Gary Wilmott” is a particularly good read. He’s such a happy chappy. If you don’t know who Gary Wilmott is then my point has been made.
In front of me is an opening which leads to the wide corridor from which the rooms of torture are based. One of the doors opens. The familiar happy smiley face of my dentist appears as he calls my name. There’s always that sense of jubilation when you have been called. It is now your turn. Right now, you are the chosen one! You leave behind all the other miserable folk sat on their uncomfortable cold plastic chairs reading articles from 1989. I smugly throw down my copy of Lookin magazine, for now was my time!
I am greeted with a familiarity you’d expect from an old friend. A firm handshake, the blank look in his eyes as he asks me how I am, how I’ve been, am I keeping well? Am I keeping out of trouble? I know full well, this is the same script he spits out every time he sees someone. I could say anything, he’s not listening. “Yes, I’m great, never better, especially after losing my testicles in a freak Parkour accident.” Well that’s what I’d like to say. Just to test if he really is listening.
I sit back in the chair and open wide. He inspects, tells me all seems fine and that he is going to take some measurements. The dental nurse who has the warmth of a dog with rabies is sitting at the side of the room. She must be a computer. Why? How else could she understand what is being said by the dentist? He’s not labelling the teeth, not even saying top row, bottom row, nothing. He’s just jabbing a sharp thing into my mouth and shouting binary across the room! “One, zero, zero, one, one.”
It’s time for a bit of a clean-up. I am given a bib and I choose to remove my glasses and wear the safety goggles provided. I don’t want the spray of my spittle tarnishing my freshly polished glasses which were cleaned half a dozen times in the waiting room. Besides, the bright light shining above me has a majestic quality through the dried remains of other victims’ spittle splashes. Nice!
I am now also joined by the dental nurse who places the suction tube in my mouth. There will be blood no doubt. Every time I come to the dentist (every six months) it’s a different dental nurse. What is happening to these dental nurses? There’s a seriously high turnover of staff here!
And so it begins. The pain; the uncomfortable desire to swallow without choking; the sensation of fresh blood in your mouth; the nurse inadvertently sucking the side of your mouth much like when you suddenly get a curtain in the vacuum hose; a sharp pain; a spray of saliva in the air like a Bellagio fountain; again the suction tube sucks onto the side of my mouth; then my tongue, then my mouth again until the depressed dental nurse regains control.
The dentist is now trying to converse with me, giving a running commentary. I appreciate his effort to keep me involved but it’s not as though I am in a position to reply. Once, when I was a wee boy, the dentist at the time started to tell me about how he was struggling with the second zone on sonic the hedgehog 2. I too was struggling with the same level. I tried to express my delight at finding someone equally as shit at Sonic 2. But despite my attempts, “agggghh agggggh uugh ahhh,” seemed to be lost in translation.
I look up at the dentist who continues to stick a sharp vibrating tool of torture into my gums and I think that it isn’t really the most flattering of views. Not that it’s much better for him, but he chose his vocation whereas I in this situation, in need of a dental check up, have no other option but to look up his flared nostrils only to see a precarious green bat trying to flee the cave! I’m thinking the dentist is aware of this view and has clearly taken steps to ensure his nostrils are well groomed. The downside of this is that there are fewer barriers in the way to prevent the green bat fleeing the cave and landing on my face or worse, in my mouth!
The thought of this distresses me. I feel warm and I start to perspire. This is tense stuff. I know for a fact, that if my Mother in law was in this situation, she would stop proceedings and tell the dentist that he seriously needs to consider his nasal hygiene. But I am not my mother in law and I am also mindful that to cause embarrassment to the dentist would cause more pain for me.
I keep quiet and as soon as he say’s all done and rinse I sit up with such a speed I get a bit of a head rush.
Rinse, spit and notice how much blood there is.
Rinse, spit and notice that there’s still quite a bit of blood.
Rinse, spit and notice that there’s still a fair bit of blood but I’ve ran out of the mouthwash stuff.
Wipe of the mouth with the little tissue the Suctionator gave me.
My dentist likes to listen to the radio whilst drawing blood and causing pain. Who would have thought that the twee commentary and Middle England sounds of Radio 2 would be the station of choice? The sounds of Will Young blaring out of the little radio accompanied by the backing vocals of the victim / patient whimpering in time to the music depending on the rhythm and well timed jab of the dentist’s sharp tool.
I would have thought that Cradle of Filth or Slayer would have been more appropriate. Maybe he switches to a different station more appropriate for wisdom tooth removal. A bit of Slayer’s, Show No Mercy!
Today whilst the clean was on-going, radio 2 came up trumps and played the 80’s classic, King of Wishful Thinking by Go West. It was just coming to a close as I was rinsing and spitting. I didn’t know what came over me but I turned into Alan Partridge. “Classic Go West!” I said rather excitedly. I then really hoped that they would get the reference. Please get the reference, I thought. But for a few seconds, there was silence. The dental nurse looked at me like I was a nutcase. She’s too young to know Partridge, besides she’ll have left by the time I come back.
But my dentist who I don’t think is that much older than me also sat there just looking as if to say, “What was that all about?”
So in an awkward silence I just sat there. An awkward slightly bloody smile on my face. It was only perhaps three or four seconds of nothing, but it seemed like minutes.
The dentist broke the silence.
“See you in another six months then.”