Pulling Teeth

“Why don’t you just change your dentist?” is a phrase heard frequently around our house. Or at least it was. Last week it was replaced by ‘What?!? You mean you still haven’t changed your dentist’.

Like all of life’s unpleasant but necessary interactions (doctors, mechanics, opticians etc), there is a lot to be said for using the same one time-after-time for convenience. For example, using the same mechanic for years so that you don’t have to explain to a new one why you put up with a car which doesn’t unlock properly and smells of haddock (not from experience, obv.). Women in particular will spend years with the same GP safe in the knowledge that they’ll ignore any minor side-effects short of death where a new GP might insist on a full medical.

There is, of course, a limit to how far this need for a familiarity of convenience can be stretched, and many would argue that having a dentist in a different country is perhaps a little eccentric.

I’ve only had 3 dentists in my life.

The first I can only remember bad things about. They were a nice person and I’m sure they gave healthily to charity and walked little old ladies across the street and everything, but I can only associate them with badness. Vomit-inducing braces for one, which left me returning to school immediately after they were fitted and as an eager 9 year-old putting my hand up to answer a question on what koala bears eat. Have you ever heard a 9 year-old trying to say ‘eucalyptus’ with a new brace? It’s a glottal sound mixed with a smattering of lisp and a splattering of saliva. Then there was the infamous ‘extra-tooth’ fiasco which resulted in a day in hospital and a memory of being asked to count to 10 as the anaesthetic kicked in and a nurse forced my jaw open with some victorian device.

The second one was clearly a perfectionist and frustrated Sherlock Holmes. The initial mention of my previous hospital treatment led to every check-up involving at least 2 x-rays of that area of my mouth. Within 3 years I probably had more radiation projected onto me than your average Russian defector. Either he saw it as his mission to cure my extra-teeth-growing-genetics, or he missed his calling as the next David Bailey.

And so finally we get to my current dentist. He’s laid-back and easy going with a Heath Robinson attitude towards teeth. You know how everyone had a Grandad who would use tools that were so worn or broken that they were more glue and tape than metal? Well this guy’s that, but for teeth. I know I have odd teeth. I know some are chipped. I know one is 80% filling now. But I keep them clean and fresh, and that seems great for him. ‘No need to do anything there, Mr Loveridge, they’re all being kept very clean and tidy’, he’ll say. And I believe him, because it’s always nice to be flattered and complemented. Even if it is on your slightly aging teeth.

It’s a great transaction. He avoids doing any fillings or treatments on my teeth and I merrily hand over £12 and go on my way for the next 6 months. More services should be offered like that. A GP who says that dislocated shoulder is just resting, for example, or a mechanic who says engines are over-rated these days and all make a noise. The fact that I have a 100 mile round-trip to get to his country is neither here nor there. It’s not like it’s all easy for him – today I could tell he was just tapping his little implement around my teeth to try and make my check-up last 2 minutes.

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