Don’t wrap me up in cotton wool

Browsing through blog posts on Google Reader as I had breakfast the other day, I noticed that several bloggers on my list appeared to be writing about the same topic: dentists. K-Byrd is smug about his shiny gnashers; Waiter has had the less happy experience of having a tooth pulled. It reminded me of my own most recent encounter with the dentist (and by ‘most recent’ I mean ‘about two years ago’), a traumatic experience worsened by my lifelong – and admittedly quite bizarre – phobia of cotton wool.

When I had my wisdom teeth removed, I spent a week beforehand worrying about them putting that horrific substance in my mouth to stem the bleeding. I actually had to talk to the dentist about it before I’d let him anywhere near me. He observed my pale complexion and tear-filled eyes, and asked gently if I wanted him to explain what he was going to do. Perhaps expecting me to confess to being utterly terrified of needles, squeamish about blood or worried about excessive pain, like a normal person, he was understandably a little surprised when I blurted out “Are you going to put cotton wool in my mouth?”. He did a very good job of keeping a straight face, not making eye contact with the amused nurse etc, and showed me the offending material, explained its make-up and so on. He tried to offer me a piece to hold, and I shrunk back into the chair with such horror that he looked decidedly disturbed.

It was, as he gently explained, “not really cotton wool“, but a gauze-like material. With, as I hastened to point out, cotton wool sandwiched between the two sneakily deceptive layers of gauze. We looked at each other for a long moment in a sort of stand-off, and he made the unfortunate decision to pretend that the conversation hadn’t actually happened.

So it was, then, that after he had wrenched my teeth from their home in an excessively violent manner, he approached my semi-conscious form with a large wad of cotton wool and said “Open your mouth for me”. I shook my head and mumbled “I think it’s OK,” making a valiant effort to ignore the fact that I wanted to spit out the disturbing volume of blood that was swirling around my mouth even as I spoke. He looked at me in the way that a school teacher might observe a bratty child, and to my dismay used a piece of the Horrific Substance to wipe away a significant amount of blood that was trickling down my chin. “Open your mouth,” he repeated, somewhat unsympathetically.

I closed my eyes, opened my mouth, and let him put my worst nightmare into effect.

I may have cried, but I’m sure I blamed it on being slightly weakened by the tooth-wrenching trauma I had just undergone. I lay there for a while desperately blocking out reality, but the only thought in  my head was, of course, “I have cotton wool IN MY MOUTH“. I had to get the nurse to remove it for me when the time came.

I dread to think what might happen if I fall victim to toothache while living in a country where I don’t speak the language. Not only will I be incapable of explaining my No Cotton Wool request, I will be incapable of arguing angrily with the dentist when he flat-out ignores my wishes anyway.


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