It is not uncommon to have a morbid fear of dentists. I am amongst those unfortunate sufferers.
I don't know what it is about dentists. Perhaps it's how close they get to you - prodding around in your mouth with mysterious instruments including wailing and grinding devices that you never even get to see properly. As a child and later I had some unpleasant experiences with dentists which I don't wish to elaborate upon just now. Let sleeping dogs lie and all that.
Anyway for the past ten years I have felt pretty comfortable about visiting the dental surgery just round the corner from our house. My dentist was called Samantha and she was always very pleasant and gentle too. She had looked after my children's teeth since they were toddlers.
When I had an appointment with Samantha she would greet me kindly, sometimes asking after our kids. She explained what she was about to do - if anything and although I never enjoyed the experience it was always tolerable in comparison with past times.
Sadly, Samantha retired at the end of October. Just after that I lost a big filling from a molar and rang up the surgery for an appointment. To my surprise, they could not fit me in till yesterday morning - six weeks after the filling came out. A big hole had been left behind and I imagined that they would fill it - but as it happens they didn't.
My new dentist was as tall as me and not that this matters one iota but he probably has an Arab heritage. He didn't even introduce himself and there were no niceties or explanations. There was no discussion about the problem tooth. He just decided not to fill it and said he would extract it if I wanted it out. I had to point out that the edges of the tooth were sharp and with a huge sigh he agreed to smooth it out.
After the treatment was done, he didn't even ask me to wash my mouth out as Samantha would have indicated. There followed something of a tirade about dental hygiene - how I must floss after every meal and when I brush my teeth I should just spit out the toothpaste - not rinse it out with water. In 69 years no dentist has ever instructed me to floss and indeed I never have flossed or failed to rinse out toothpaste.
He said that if I followed his guidance my teeth would serve me well for the next fifty years. Fifty years! I protested that I would not be alive in fifty years time but he was unapologetic about his ridiculous claim and found no humour in my protest. He also said that if I followed his advice I would avoid bad breath when I have never ever suffered from this as my nearest and dearest can happily confirm.
Before I left the surgery, I said to the fellow, "By the way, you didn't tell me your name" and it was almost with another sigh of irritation that he surrendered the precious information but I could not make out his swift pronunciation so I am still not much the wiser. It begins with an "R".
I am not looking forward to seeing him again. Some of the old dentophobic anxiety has returned and I am still not sure that it was right to leave the tooth unfilled. Was he fobbing me off and saving time because I was having my treatment on The National Health Service? I paid for it in advance through a lifetime of National Insurance salary deductions - just as my parents did.
I think this guy needs to have that explained to him. And furthermore it is surprising that his training clearly did include how to deal nicely with patients and put them at their ease. Samantha could teach him a lot.