There is a hole in my tooth. It’s the very back molar at the top. Contrary to popular belief, my mouth isn’t big enough to get a mirror inside to examine it, so I have been probing it with the tip of my tongue. It feels as deep as the Grand Canyon, but it can’t be: only a few slightly discoloured shards fell out.
To be honest, the tooth had been hurting on and off for some time. I thought if I ignored it, it might go away. It’s not as if I’ll be able to find a dentist: having written a number of articles recently in the ‘real world’, I am well aware of that. I did check the NHS ‘dentist finder’. My local practitioners aren’t taking on any new patients.
I resent paying dentists. I pay my National Insurance, so surely I should be able to find someone to sort out my mouth on the cheap? My resentment goes deeper than meanness and bloody-mindedness, though. It is rooted in the hundreds of pounds I paid a dentist once and ended up with some attractive white replacement fillings and not much else.
I had saved up to have veneers on my teeth. I went to a dentist renowned for being good at the old cosmetic stuff: he was also renowned for being expensive. I told him what I wanted. “Ah,” he said, “before we can do that, you must have those stains removed and your horrible old metal fillings replaced with pretty nice white ones. We wouldn’t want them ruining your smile when it’s finished, would we?”
The stains, which are actually covered by my lower lip 99.9% of the time, were attacked – repeatedly – by an evangelical American hygienist with sparkling pearly-whites. I came away – repeatedly – with sore and bleeding gums, and my stains still intact. The fillings were replaced. “The injection costs more than the NHS one,” the dentist explained, “because the needle is narrower and the anaesthetic is pina colada flavoured.” I never got my veneers. By the time the groundwork had been laid, he’d cleaned me out.
So, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve paid my cash dues to dentists for at least the next 20 years. As for my poor holey tooth? Well, surprisingly it hurts less now that a bit of it has fallen out. I might just leave it and see what happens.