Dental/Mental Torcher

December 12, 2009

I walk with dragging feet (and my infected molars and gums) into the large hall where several chairs are placed, and approach the nearest white coat diffidently, with my dental records card. I am hoping that this person will say, “No, we can’t see you now,” and I can go home in peace.

No such luck. I am in the unfortunate position of the patient in the hospital, who was asked by his doctor, “You want the good news first or the bad news?” When he said he wanted the good news, the doctor beamed, “Well, we are naming the disease after you.”

“Oh yes, Mrs M,” beams the dentist, showing a perfect set of pearly teeth that surely no other dentist has laid hands on. “We’ve been expecting you. The students are waiting.”

No, thankfully, the students are not here to take turns at trying their budding skills on my molars.

They are here because I am a referral patient; that is, my case is interesting enough to be made a case study of. This means (on the good side) that my treatment cost is incredibly low.

But the bad side is that these WC (White Coats) proceed to put me in The Chair (which is only a shade less terrifying than the electric chair), and will open my mouth, stretch a bright green square of some rubbery material across it, with some needle stuck into one recalcitrant tooth...and then the professor will bring the students in. To the students, I don't exist. I am an uninteresting body attached to a very interesing tooth. The professor shines the light on to my gaping mouth, and proceeds to elucidate...and while the students are not aware of me...I watch them. There's always one (at least) specimen of what we refer to in Bangalore as an Enthu Cutlet. This one is the Professor's Pet. S/he peers unabashedly into my mouth, almost smothering me with hes nose, and proceeds to ask Intelligent Questions...and nods sagely at the answers. Then there is the Not-Too-Interested One. This one takes a few desultory notes, but I feel that s/he has been there, done that, seen it all...my case may be fascinating to the professor...but it's less so to this person. At the back of the group is the Totally Bored House Surgeon. S/he is probably NOT interested in Endodontology, which is what my case falls under (re-infection of a badly-done root canal.) This person stares off into the distance while the professor's words wash over hes person without making any appreciable impact. Twice I've seen hem checking hes mobile for SMS's, surrpetitiously. Then there's the Romeo. He is busy checking out the other chairs, where some of the undergraduate students of dentistry (this is a teaching dental college) are working. Sometimes, instead, he smiles at one of the young women in the group. The Lothario also adjusts his hair frequently. Now and then his eyes flicker to my mouth, as he barely registers what's being said. There's the Tensed-Up Timidity. This one *wants* to know what's being taught, but timorousness keeps hem at the periphery of the group, where s/he cannot hear the facts. S/he can't see into my mouth very well, either, from the outer reaches of the solar system, where s/he is orbiting around, hoping to get a vantage point. This person is very worried that this case will be one about which questions will be asked at the next viva (or whatever it is that dentists face...SURELY, dentists, of all people, should have oral tests!!). But s/he doesn't know how to get that info..... The crowd finally moves off behind the professor, and my personal torture specialist dentist moves in. In no particular order, he stuffs three evil-looking implements into my mouth, then solicitously enquires, "Are you comfortable?" Of course I am comfortable with all those thing sticking out of my mouth like one of those Terminator-type movies. I dare not even nod for fear of dislodging one of them, especially the one that looks as if it was invented by the Marquis de Sade. I put up my hand to ask him to go ahead. "Hand DOWN please!" he barks sharply. He thinks I am trying to pull those thingies out of my mouth...not, perhaps, a bad idea. He starts up a drill, a truly dreadful thing that goes "wheeeeeee...I'm going to enjoy cutting you to pieces!" (at least, that's what my dental drills always say to me.) I tense myself to have the worst of it start.... and the power goes off. The tone of the drill's whine changes...and drops. "There's no pressure in the compressor," grumbles the dentist. He keeps trying every five minutes. No luck. My mouth has now been WIDE open for what seems like months, even years. I have a dreadful feeling this is the way my face is going to look permanently.... The power finally comes back on, and the dentist moves purposefully closer. I suddenly begin to wish that the power had not come back, after all. "This won't hurt," the dentists says. If this guy can lie so smoothly, what is he doing in the dental college? He should have become a lawyer. Not hurt, indeed. One day I want to put HIM in the chair, and say this same dialogue to HIM, and then enjoy MY time with the drill... I come out of my daydream with a sharp pain my jaw, which tells me that the first local anesthetic has worn out during the wait for the power to come back. "Ngghnh hmmphgg!" I say to the dentist. He carries on with an assurance that everything is OK. Huh! of COURSE everything is OK...for him! HE's not the one sitting and looking up into a bright light while her mouth is attacked, is he? Aeons of drilling, rinsing and spitting go on. It's extremely tiring to be almost flat on one's back, and very intimidating to see the horrendous implements being used. For the extraction of one of my wisdom teeth, I swear the dentist used a screwdriver and then a pair of pliers. I think the dentist is an electrician in disguise. My dentist chats casually with his fellow-workers at the other chairs. I learn that "internals" (exams) are happening today. I hear the gossip on this floor. I now know that Faisal, whoever he is, has no right to be dating Mallika, because he's also going around with Mrinalini. Now if only I knew who these two were.... "That's it for today, Madam..." the sweetest words in the English language. I spit piece of my teeth and blood into the basin for the last time, close a mouth that feels as if I was born with it open, get unsteadily to my feet and walk out to a day filled with pain as the anesthetic wears out.... God...make ME a dentist in my next birth, and let me treat all these White-Coats....I ask the dentist why he can't remove all my teeth and give me dentures.... would save me a lot of time and money. "Madam, everyone who has root canal says the same thing," laughs the dentist. Huh, not even my jokes are good, now!

When the root-canal botching happened the first time, a few years ago, I gave myself the Blogger username of molarbear…the molar making me as angry as a bear….alas, that name is still apt!