I have never had a dental "check up" in my entire adult life. Any visits I have ever made have been unavoidable - usually because of insufferable pain. Because of this there have been periods when I have gone five or six years without seeing one of these deranged sadists with their arrays of drills and pastes, their disconcerting conversations and their unpleasantly sour-sweet body odours. Why would any intelligent person actually choose to be a dentist? Spending your entire working life rooting around in people's mouths seems to me to be a very narrow and unappealing way in which to feather your nest. Mind you - even though they are little more than oral mechanics fixing your teeth - dentists are handsomely rewarded. As my old mother used to say - you won't see a poor dentist.
Until last Friday, I was not on an NHS dentist's list. Once or twice, I had half-heartedly tried to get on a list but the problem was they always wanted to begin with a "check up". Recently, I have had a dental issue which has now translated itself into a hamster cheek on my left side - all down to a developing root infection. On Sunday lunchtime, I travelled to an area of Sheffield called Fir Vale which is home to a large Pakistani community - I was seeing the emergency "out of hours" dentist. The guy reminded me of the "doc" in "Back to The Future" but his communication skills were even more limited. There were no social niceties and no advice about paracetamol or what do if the problem persisted. He spent no more than three minutes in my mouth. I even had to ask if it would be okay for me to rinse out with that pink antiseptic water that dentists favour.
I woke up on Monday morning with a big swollen cheek so the dentist's intervention appeared to have caused more harm than good. The emergency dental service gave me another appointment at Fir Vale. Aaaaargh! I just didn't want to see that pigman again but there he was! I had to wait for an hour and a half before finally getting into his torture chamber once again. This time, after prodding around my un-numbed jaws, he prescribed some antibiotic pills which left me wondering why he hadn't done that the first time. "A lot of pus coming out...suck on the tooth," made me realise that he did possess the power of speech after all.