The Dentist

Somebody who has become, unfortunately I am inclined to say, quite a good friend of mine, because I see him so often, is our dentist. Once I had made the contact shortly after arriving in England, I could not stop seeing him – I like him so much ! He is a relatively small, slim man with a pleasant, sonorous, low-pitched voice and a mocking smile. I do not like to think how old he might be, with his full white hair, and how near retiring age, because I have become hooked on him and would not like to lose him. His manners are calm and reassuring, all our children like him. He must be fit physically, for he has a skiing holiday every year. I prefer not to know when he goes, because it worries me a little …

He loves music, but never went into Wagner because the latter was the dictator’s favourite. He is convinced there is fine music in Wagner, but considers himself too old to start on something new. He reassured me by saying that I was young enough. He put me in touch with a gentleman named Wagner who by the looks of him rightly claims to descend from the great composer.

He takes a very sympathetic attitude towards his patients, listening to their comments, complaints, remarks of all kinds, even the ones of a professional nature, like my reservations concerning amalgam fillings. He had never heard they should be bad for us and pointed out that he had both amalgam and gold in his mouth. This horrified me on another count : according to a law in physics an electric current exists between two different metals in moist surroundings.

I amazed him by refusing injections, but with a friendly smile he let me have my way. The dentist in my own country used to look at me reproachfully on such occasions. When it came to cutting down two teeth in preparation for a bridged crown, I wondered what to do. I would have loved to try without an injection. Could I dare suggest this ? His assistant made an appointment for me. Before I could start talking about my problem to her, she suggested to me to take tranquillizers before presenting myself for the treatment. I was totally unprepared for this, waved it aside as irrelevant and mentioned my problem. She looked at me blank,saying I would have to discuss this with him on the day. I decided in the end not to make fuss and accept whatever came. To my surprize he asked “are we having an injection?”. I said “yes”. He said “good”, and then “or do you want to try without?” . I seized the opportunity to tell him what I really wanted, refusing to be called a masochist. He would obviously have to go along and “try” with me. He agreed and said “we’ll try”. All went well without undue suffering on anybody’s part, and he gave me a lot of praise. I felt wonderful.

Next time I had to have a tooth extracted. I had heard about a brave gentleman who had this operation done without an anaesthetic. I wondered if I could do the same. However, the dentist did not ask me this time, just came with the needle as I was starting to make my request. He stopped short and looked disconcerted, his assistant gasped. I hastened to add “only with your consent, of course”. He replied in the best English way “not too keen”. I can just imagine what any of my compatriots would have said ! He really is wonderfully tolerant of his patients’ whims. He knows I do not like fluoride and when he recommended precisely that, he added “or anything that makes you happy”. Once I told him about latest scientific evidence speaking rather against the use of fluoride. This was at the end of a session. With a gentle but firm hand he pushed me out of his room, saying “don’t spoil my illusions”.

His surgery is the most pleasant one – if or because a little crowded – I have been to, with pictures on the walls painted by his patients and a lovely old-fashioned easy-chair with a collection of rag-dolls on it, my little daughter’s delight. My husband does not like his bills. I must say, when I see the well-known envelopes arrive, my heart is beating faster. Still, if we want him, we have to keep him alive.