I went to the Mouth Butcher’s yesterday and had a rather long and decayed tooth removed. Partly a result of my dental history and experience with dentists, it was something I had put off for a long time.
The tooth broke on Wednesday. It broke because of my refusal to confront the consequences – pain, decay, toothlessness – of not going to the dentist. My last visit three years ago had ended in an extraction. For the last few months I had been eating using one side of my mouth, in a ludicrous half-hope that the tooth would magically repair itself, despite the splitting headaches that had come as a consequence of bits of pizza getting stuck inside it.
It was a state of denial – I can’t remember the last time I actually looked inside my mouth lest I would have to countenance scenes of decay and death.
The last time a tooth broke, I had medicated myself with clove oil, nurofen, whiskey and water for a few weeks before finally capitulating and arranging an emergency appointment. The time before that I had to have several teeth reset, without anaesthetic, after a late night incident involving a radiator. I was quite pleased with myself then, when within minutes of this tooth breaking, I had arranged an appointment for the following morning.
The dentist tapped, scraped and scratched a bit at the tooth, uncovering a deathly stench that had been concealed by the remnants of the filling. I was given the choice of extraction or paying 500 Euro for the root canal work and another 500 or so Euro for a crown. A grand seemed awful steep for one tooth, so I opted for the cheaper, more immediate punishment.
The removal of the tooth wasn’t too painful; the anaesthetic worked well and the dentist was as good as a dentist could get without not being a dentist. The problem for me was the psychic trauma that arose from imagining the scenes of destruction inside my mouth.
Perhaps the anaesthetic, combined with the fact that it’s been years since I looked inside my mouth, led me to lose all sense of scale. As I listened, eyes closed, to the sounds of Today FM playing that ‘string me up, stitch me up’ song, punctuated by the occasional crack and crunch from my mouth, my mind’s eye was filled with images of giant mysterious monuments uprooted in awful carnage.
It lasted three quarters of an hour.
“That sounded like an awkward tooth to remove”, I drooled.
“Yeah, it was a big dirty one alright”.
I avoided the mirror for a few hours after that, but such was the sensation in my mouth that I imagined I looked like Nelson from the Simpsons.