Modern dentistry? Perfect!
Since retirement my partner and I haveestablisheda distinctivebreakfast pattern. We eat porridge and fruit on weekdays and toast and coffee at the weekend. So come Saturday,after I hadn’t been able to resist the last toasted crust with its generous dollop of homemade raspberry jam, it felt as if the toast had become stuck to my tooth. There was a jagged new profile in my mouth that the persistent massagingof my tongue was unable to dislodge. It quickly dawned on me that the crust had painlessly chipped off part of my tooth leavingthe mercury amalgam filling exposedto the exploratory incursions of my tongue. After a transient moment of wondering whether I should look up the signs of mercury poisoning, I resolvedto take my chances over the weekend and to book an urgent appointment with my dentist on Monday instead.
The dental surgery is discretely located in an elegant terrace in Highgate high street. As you enter, waiting room and office are on the same level and from there a narrow staircase leads both down and up to individual treatment rooms that extend overfour or five floors. The atmosphere is calm,homely yet professional. But after all it is a dentist!Every time Ilie back on the plastic covered couch and am moved to a convenient height for the surgeon to better peerinto my mouth, Ithink of that infamous film sequencein which Laurence Olivier tortures Dustin Hoffman with a dental probeasking,“Is it safe?” (Marathon Man John Schlesinger 1976). But there the comparison with my recent experience ends.
It must have taken the surgeon less than 5 seconds to decide what was wrong and what needed to be done. As he explained his diagnosis and treatment plan to me, the assistant was already preparing the local anaesthetic and gum-numbing sponge. After that, discomfort and anxiety were mere memory.
Watching the ballet of expert hand movements passing across my face, interacting soundlessly with the assistant and the instruments, Ifound myselfmarvelling at the sheer competence and skill of it all. These truly professional individuals while carrying out their day-to day work, are in fact performing near miracles. Where would we be without good modern dental care? My repaired tooth looks better than it has since I was a teenager when it had been filled with silver. Now it is re-sculpted to match its neighbours. The whole episode had taken less than half an hour.
I remember that only one word was spoken during the procedure,“Perfect!”A comment – I presumed – onthe accuracy of colour match between the new epoxy resin repair and that of my natural teeth. But also one I could use to describe the whole experience.