Every one of my pearly white teeth has a story to tell. A story of being poked, prodded, drilled, filled and billed upon.
My dental makeup is an unfortunate combination of maternally-inherited ‘poor dentition’ and the paternally-inherited genetics of teeth that sprouted out in no particular order with a pair of buck teeth to top it all. The pair of buck teeth initially appeared cute to my parents, but for obvious reasons reminded everyone else of a bunny rabbit.
My dad was quick to insist that we visit a dentist and ‘fix’ the problem before everything went out of hand.
Dr. Ranganathan reminded me of the villains from South-Indian movies (or so my six-year-old mind led me to believe) complete with a mustache twisted at its ends and shrewd unsmiling eyes. He was curt (close to rude) and lost no time to emphasize the fact that he was very well in charge. My dad (who had accompanied me) was soon shown out of his office as the doctor’s fat ‘bouncer’ nurse plonked my terrified six-year-old frame onto the dreaded dentist’s chair. As if in slow-motion, the dentist put up a show of pulling out an exceptionally big syringe with a bigger needle with an unnecessary flourish as the ‘bouncer’ nurse firmly held my hands and feet, all my screams falling on deaf ears. The tricky problematic premolar was quick to find its way into the deft dentist’s little bowl.
After that first dreaded visit, every other visit became my dad’s secret mission. I was whisked away late evenings with the pretext of just ‘the usual grocery shopping’. A visit to the pharmacy to buy a bar of ‘Five Star’ was the first giveaway, but it managed the trick – every time. The thrill (or greed) of getting hold of a bar of chocolate all to myself (without having my little brother on my hair for his share) succeeded in getting the task at hand taken care of as I somehow found myself on that dreaded chair and the torture session repeated itself.
Dr. Ranganathan and all his expertise could not entirely ‘fix’ my dental woes.
During my pre-teens, my dad learned of yet another dentist (or an orthodontist). Every Sunday saw us on our way to the cheerful Orthodontist who ensured that I walked out with a mouthful of braces with a promise to straighten my crooked dentition; at least he was sweet and smiled and all, even when his hands poked and prodded my poor crooked teeth.
I believe that my first dentist had cast the jinx, for my tryst with dentists did not end there.
After having a brief spell with no dentist in my life, albeit temporarily, a slightly painful tooth (that I ignored) slowly and steadily grew into one that got me doubling with pain. I soon found myself Googling for a dentist who could take care of it. I found myself back in that dreaded dentist’s chair, this time under the scrutiny of an Indian dentist in a hospital in Dubai. He (like the others) was quick to point out that he did have a lot of ‘work’ in order to ‘fix’ my ‘poor’ dentition. Obviously, his words were stale news as I very well knew that my dental makeup was any dentist’s dream ground to work upon. So I was mentally prepared for a few sessions with yet another dentist.
As humans, we each have a certain style in performing any job of our expertise. My new dentist’s working style was absurd, even close to reaching ‘bizarre’.
Every one of the sessions was the same. It always began with him brandishing a tray with its neat alignment of dental tools, which for some reason reminded me of a particular program that showed and described the instruments used in a Torture Chamber. He then put on a disposable mask across his mouth, a pair of safety glasses and then a face mask made of clear plastic that covered his entire face. Overall, Mr. Dentist looked every bit of a site worker ready to grind, weld and drill the object in question or simply throw in a body suit and Mr. Dentist was ready to take off to space. All suited up, he switched the television on and took his seat beside mine after having programmed it to a popular news channel. He then set to work, his eyes fixed on the television.
Lying prone helpless with your mouth wide open on the dreaded dentist’s chair is bad enough, let alone being subject to an hour of root canal treatment with the dentist’s eye and focus on matters of the world rather than the teeth in question. My apprehensive mind screamed that I must voice my concerns but talking gets a tad bit difficult with your mouth wide open and needles being stuck into your teeth. The logic and the reasoning part of my brain screamed “Quiet” for what if the dentist interpreted my concern to questioning his abilities and then decide to give me six painful sessions instead of the usual three?
Considering my experiences with various dentists through different stages of my life, I decided to take my son (apparently he has my genes too) to a particular dentist who was renowned for his exceptional skill and friendliness, not only with adults but with children too. This young dentist was everything he promised to be. Sid was allowed to watch his favorite cartoon that was played through the quick 10-minute session on a screen that was part of the (evolved) dreaded dentist chair. I wondered if the charming doctor would play Bollywood movies or maybe even a sleazy item numbers for his adult patients while he went about his work. However, Mr. Charmer Dentist’s bill was a shocker that made Mr. Suited Dentist, with his uncanny ability to keep his eyes on the television while his hands worked relentlessly, suddenly seem worthy of all my apprehensions.
My maternal cousin (who also has inherited his mother’s ‘poor’ dentition) explained that teeth must be brushed with care as he demonstrated holding on to the brush with two fingers and gently massaging them with its soft bristles.
My friend said, “my dentist tells me that I must treat my teeth like I would treat glass, with utmost care.”
Mr. Charmer Dentist advised, “try not to snack in-between meals.”
Mr. Suited Dentist said, “it’s the weak enamel, try a diet rich in calcium.”
Since all the dental expertise, skill and advice have not been able to ‘fix’ my problem entirely, maybe I must launch an extensive search for a family dentist (like a family physician) who is between being a skilled charmer and light on my pocket too!