I’ve never liked going to the dentist. First of all, there’s the antiseptic smell that’s got a layer of ozone skirting under it. And don’t get me started on that whining sound which, to me, is exactly like the soundtrack of a Japanese horror movie, round about the time something the shape of a small child, all black with a lot of hair, emerges from the bathtub.
But fundamentally, I don’t like going to the dentist for the simple reason that there’s something incredibly frightening about opening your mouth and letting someone wearing a mask approach it with sharp implements.
“You are such a baby!” Amanda said to me the other day as we sat in the waiting room of Dr Chan, our regular dentist.
“Seriously, thank you for coming with me,” I told her. My eyes were shut tight as I tried to breathe. “I really hate coming to the dentist!”
Amanda sighed. “Who doesn’t? But you’re not getting any drilling or scraping done, so what are you so scared about? It’s just a mouth-guard!”
A few weeks ago, during my regular six-monthly check-up, Dr Chan was prodding and scrapping inside my teeth with his scary hooked instrument while I was convinced I was about to pee in my pants from sheer panic. Eventually, he looked up and said, “Your back molars are quite worn down. You’re grinding your teeth in your sleep.”
“I most certainly am not,” I said automatically. Already, I didn’t like where this conversation was heading and I knew it was important that I stopped it in its tracks.
Dr Chan ignored me. “If you keep this up, your teeth will be all uneven which will cause you a whole world of problems. So, we’d better set you up with a mouth-guard. You can rinse now.”
As I bent towards the white porcelain bowl and slowly sloshed the icky peppermint-flavoured solution in my mouth, I considered my options. Getting a mouth-guard meant I would have to come back and spend more time in this white torture chamber. But not getting one might mean I would eventually grind my teeth down to stumps, which would require an even longer period of time in here getting the problem fixed and God only knew what would be involved in repairing teeth stumps — although I imagined the process would involve a lot of needles and drilling.
By the time I’d spat out solution and leaned back into the plastic-lined chair, I knew there was no way out of this. “I’ll give you an extra hour and that’s that,” I told Dr Chan firmly.
His eyes crinkled above his white face-mask, but for all I knew, he was sneering at me.
Which is why I now found myself back in the clinic, though this time, I had dragged Amanda along for moral support.
“Honestly, you are such a baby!” she repeated as she pulled out her compact mirror and examined her make-up, moving her face up and down, and from side to side.
“You can talk, you have lovely teeth!” I said. “Mine are turning into stumps!”
“Well, if you get the mouth-guard, that’s not going to happen. The only thing about them, though, is that you’ll drool in your sleep!”
I sat up and stared at her.
Amanda shrugged. “It’s true. Remember Roger? He had to wear one. Drooled all night. His pillow was soggy each morning. It was like sleeping with a Bulldog.”
“That’s really disgusting, Manda!” I said.
She shrugged again. “Well, it’s that or have stumps for teeth. Not a good look. Anyway, part of the reason Roger and I broke up, I think, was because of the drooling. That and the fact he was so stingy! At one stage, I made him bring over his own set of pillows and pillow cases. I just couldn’t deal with the idea of him drooling all over my Frette linen!”
In the end, the fitting of the mouth-guard wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be. I basically had to bite into a metal mould filled with some kind of wet plaster that had the texture of chewing gum. “Not so bad, right?” Dr Chan said at one stage. “Okay, bite one more time for me? There, all done!"
I massaged my jaw. I felt like I’d been chewing overcooked steak for an hour. “That’s it?”
“Yes! Come back next week for a fitting!”
Later that day, Amanda came home and presented me with a set of soft hand towels. “They’re Egyptian cotton and you put them on top of your pillow to protect the linen from your drool!”
Saffy says this is the beginning of the end. “First, drooling pads. What’s next? Plastic bed protectors? It’s over!”