It was one of those good news/bad news moments.
The good news was that my toothache is the result of a minor infection, and will go away all by itself in a matter of days. No extraction/laser amputation/cotton wool necessary. Hurrah! Of course, the dentist did manage to cause me quite a bit of trauma in the way that he informed me of this.
How long have you had this on the lip? he asked, indicating the rather painful coldsore I’ve been proudly sporting for the last few days. A couple of days, I replied in surprise, thinking that it was a bit rude of him to go pointing out my zits when I’m already obviously in pain from the toothache.
He nodded, satisfied. This is herpes, he said cheerfully of the coldsore. There is a small sore also on the gum, but no hole in the tooth. It will be fine in a few days.
I looked at him in utter horror.
Herpes? Herpes?! Herpes is what you get when you sleep around and lead a somewhat free and easy sexual existence, n’est-ce pas?! It is an STD! I can feel my cheeks burning, and I would have been protesting my innocence and denying this horrible allegation most insistently were it not for the fact that the dentist’s mirror and scrapey silver thing were once again occupying my mouth.
Crippled with shame and in a state of confused humiliation, I returned home to perform a frantic Google search on the causes of herpes – which was when I discovered that there is, in fact, a distinct difference between oral and genital herpes. And that oral herpes is merely the more official name for coldsores. And that 90% of people are affected by it from infancy upwards. Oh, right. Sometimes my ignorance causes me a great deal of unnecessary embarrassment.
However, I’m reassured that the dentist doesn’t think I’m a whore, and the “herpes” thing has turned out to be good news after all. Apart from the fact that Riho, amused at my misunderstanding, now screams Unclean, unclean! every time I walk into the room. Hilarious.
So, clearly this was the good news. It’s only a little coldsore that’s been causing me pain. This means that I have not yet informed you of the bad news.
I’ll just take a quick look at the other teeth while we’re here, said the dentist. He did some scraping and poking, as they are wont to do, and said Hmmm. Does this cause pain? He was tapping at one of my back teeth. I shrugged. No. He wiggled the sharp thing around a bit more violently. Does this? I shrugged again, torn between telling the truth – that it didn’t hurt – and lying in case he was planning on doing worse and worse things to me until I did actually feel pain. Not really, I said in the end.
He hmmmed some more and completed his examination. Well, he said, whether you feel pain or not, you have a huge hole in that back tooth. It will need to come out. Do you want me to remove it for you?
I jumped up in alarm, for he had the look of one who was about to lunge at me with a scalpel and cause a lot of pain and suffering.
Erm, well, now, I, um… I stammered and stuttered for a while before promising that I would return at a later date to have the scary Tooth Amputation performed. He nodded, stepping back and snapping off his gloves. That is fine, he said, gravely, but it will most certainly have to come out. Better now than when you are in great pain and it has caused problems for the neighbouring teeth also, you see? He sounded very firm.
Erm, yes, OK, I promised, backing carefully out of the room. He smiled cheerfully. Have a nice day! he said as I bolted from the building, as if he hadn’t just informed me that I now had to choose between (a) intense pain and suffering through non-treatment of injured tooth and (b) intense pain and suffering through treatment of injured tooth.
Dentists just don’t get it, do they? You cannot tell someone that you’re going to rip out one of their teeth and charge them money into the bargain, and then expect them to have a nice day.