I’ve had a niggling toothache for a few weeks now, on and off. Possibly I haven’t helped matters by snacking quite regularly on the supply of Cadbury’s chocolate that Riho brought back from a recent trip to the UK, but it’s not like I always do this. In fact, I hardly ever eat sweet things, as instead of a sweet tooth, I have a mouthful of sensitive ones. Clearly my teeth just hate me. They get even a whiff of a Creme Egg and they see it as their moral duty to punish me.
Anyway, I laid off the chocolate for a day or two, as I have as much desire to go to the dentist as I have to be hung naked from the rafters and have white-hot metal objects pressed against my skin until I black out. (Sorry, I have just finished watching Season Two of 24.) And all was well until last night, when suddenly my teeth, sensing that I was on to them, went in for the kill and began shooting tiny little arrows into my gums. I did not have a pleasant night, and today has not turned out much better.
I do not want to go to the dentist. I’m not scared of dentists, you understand. They are, quite probably, human beings. I’m not afraid of needles, either, as seems to be inexplicably common – I don’t particularly enjoy having any part of my flesh pierced with a sharp metal point, but it doesn’t terrify me. No, I just do not like dentists. They talk to you when they’ve got their hands in your mouth, for a start. It’s most undignified, particularly when they pause for you to reply and you end up going “groooooghuurghhguullllyaaa” and drooling helplessly.
Mine always used to tell me off, too. “Do you drink coffee?” he started asking suspiciously when I was in my teens. “Red wine?” he added a few years later. “Are you a smoker?” he asked in undisguised disgust when I finally returned to him after many years for my last – and worst – dental appointment. I always came out feeling guilty and dirty and small and disgraced. In that particular instance, I also came out staggering drunkenly, with blood caked on my numb lips, clutching a hand to my swollen cheek, and promptly walked into a little old lady, causing her to drop her shopping all over the pavement. Yes, that was the day he put his foot up on the chair, got the nurse to hold my head down, and using both hands and what I can only imagine was a pair of pliers, ripped out my top wisdom teeth and then – against all my fervent and clearly expressed wishes – put cotton wool** in my mouth to stem the bleeding.
You can forgive me for not wanting to see a dentist again for as long as I live.
However, it may very soon be unavoidable, as I am fighting a losing battle against my molars. I have started making nervous and tentative enquiries online as to the standard of dentistry in Estonia. Happily, the healthcare system here seems to be decent – I read an article last month saying that of the 31 nations rated in a new ‘league table’ of European healthcare systems, Estonia was placed 11th, and the UK came 13th. Good news for me, anyway(!). And when they were rated according to value for money, Estonia was top, while the UK came 17th! Sure enough, I have found a dental price list, and it doesn’t seem even vaguely as scary as what I had to pay my dentist in Ballymena, which saw me muttering darkly for many weeks about the pointlessness of paying taxes.
Rather disturbingly, however, they seem to be unnaturally fond of lasers. I have no idea what most of the things on the list are to start with, but when they start introducing lasers to the already unpleasant situation, it becomes all the more alarming. Laser amputation on primary tooth. Yikes. Have started attempting to wobble my teeth to check that they’re not loose or likely to require such a drastic-sounding procedure. Laser sterilisation of one root canal. Laser decontamination of wounds and alveoli. Laser recontouring of gumline, one tooth. Eh? Vestibular frenuloplasty (with laser). It goes on like this for quite some time.
I am going to take a few more painkillers and purchase some mouthwash and dental floss.
**If you don’t know this already, I am terrified of cotton wool. Terrified, I tell you.