I have decided once and for all that dental problems are a mere nuisance, no more, and cheerfully went to see my dentist. He greeted me with a friendly “how are you” and I told him that I had dreamt about him last night. “O dear,” he said, “amazing how many people dream about teeth.” I once read in a clever book, “Psychology of Dreams” or similar title, what the deeper meaning of dreams about teeth is, but am glad to say that I have forgotten. All I knew was that in my dream my dentist had made new teeth for me. He laughed and then proceeded with the inspection of the trouble spot. After a little silence he said: “Well, it’s an old problem…” I understood straight away. No doubt he thought, removing a crown would be painful, and who knows, the tooth might have to be pulled up, and he was probably trying to sell me…an injection. I said: “You mean, an injection?” O no, it wasn’t that at all; but I was on the right track. It was something else, he said, which he knew I disliked. “How would you feel about …an X-ray?” I hastened to reassure him that I wasn’t against X-rays on principle. He then reassured me that I was by no means obliged to have one. I could in fact tell him flatly, so he said, to get on with the job without having one. It might mean unnecessary trouble, trouble that could have been avoided, had he had knowledge of the condition the tooth was in, and he patiently explained his view to me. I said with my most casual smile: “Have an X-ray, then,” and he was satisfied. As it was, he took two. No doubt it was part of his policy not to have told me this earlier on. He knows how to handle me, I must give him that. I had to support the film for the X-ray with my finger, which probably means that my finger was x-rayed, too, and he didn’t put any protective covers onto me, either. I don’t suppose it matters much at my age…
After that he explained to me the various possibilities, depending on which treatment he would have to opt for. A new crown, out of steel to make it cheaper, providing the tooth was good enough, or else there would be the problem of finding a replacement, fixed or loose. Nobody likes it loose, he informed me straight away. For something fixed, there was the problem of the adjoining teeth which in my case…He cleared his throat and tried to look cheerful. I smiled at him and said “Not to worry”. He smiled back saying “No”. Anyway, he said, we could think it all over while waiting for the result of the X-rays. “I let you off for now, milady,” he laughed. I laughed back saying “See you then” and made the next appointment with his assistant.
I telephoned two days later to be informed about the X-rays. It turned out that the dentist still didn’t know whether it was worth keeping the tooth or not. He would have to see with his own eyes, now. In other words it was “worth the trouble of taking off the crown”. I was pleased with the result and presented myself the following week. I also brought my son for a check-up which was a matter of a minute or two. When I came in afterwards, the dentist remarked that normally he would have taken x-rays of my son’s teeth, being the age he is, but knowing I didn’t like them, he hadn’t bothered. And he laughed a little. I asked was there anything to be seen on the surface that had aroused his suspicion. He said, no, but he takes x-rays if only to “cover” himself. He then spent the best part of an hour on my wretched tooth. Miniature art, his job. He took off the crown, drilled out holes with all sorts of frightening looking utensils which were at different speeds, into different depths, making different noises; some of them terribly long, thin and pointed; he poked a very sensitive spot once which made me start, and he apologized; he discussed prejudice against root fillings with me; seemed to be hesitating what best to do, filled it all up in the end and put the old crown back on.
His assistant had the x-ray ready, a matter of routine, I imagine, but he brushed it aside saying: “She doesn’t like that,” and adding after a few seconds: “It won’t make much difference anyway.” I was delighted. He said the good news was that the old crown could still be used, and the bad news, that the tooth underneath was “a mess”. Had he done a root filling, I inquired. Much to my pleasure he said, no, the tooth was too far gone, hardly any substance left – I was glad I didn’t have to look at it – certainly not worth the trouble of filling the root.
He had put in a provisional filling which would be replaced by a permanent one, if the tooth behaved itself, and with a bit of luck I might have the use of it for a few years yet. He looked reasonably happy. I certainly was. When I left, he said to me: “You have been very patient.” Of course, I hadn’t had an injection. He didn’t think I wanted one, but had told me to “yell” in case I changed my mind.