Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A toothache...

The last time I had any teeth extracted it was my wisdoms in my early 20s (which Johann would probably say explains a lot). All four were impacted and the extractions were done under general anaesthetic. It was a largely unmemorable experience, except that when I returned six weeks later for a checkup, both the dentist and his nurse behaved rather oddly – giggling and whispering behind their hands and looking slyly at me. Eventually I couldn’t take it any more and asked them what was going on. Apparently I had gone completely mad as I came out of the anaesthetic, tried to punch the dentist, swore my head off and had to be restrained. I couldn’t remember any of this and they wouldn’t give me details, which I thought a little unfair.

Since then I’ve had a few unhappy adventures with the big molars at the back of my mouth and several concurrent unpleasant dental experiences. There was the dentist who tried to pull one of them, ending up quite literally with her foot braced against the chair in the attempt, before wiping her brow and giving up, and deciding to take an X-ray to see what the problem was (better late than never, eh?). The X-ray showed, alarmingly, that two of the three roots were entwined in my sinuses. ‘Just as well I didn’t manage,’ she said cheerfully, ‘I would have pulled half your face off.’

And there was the miserably hungover dentist who did some questionable emergency root-canal work on another large molar – I don’t hold him entirely to blame, as he did me the favour of dragging himself out of bed at 4 in the morning to put me out of my agony. But that’s the tooth that’s given me trouble for years – the crown has fallen off and been replaced a couple of times, and finally an infection developed in the root and earlier this week my current dentist said he’d have to pull it. And while he hammered and chiselled away at it, he told me something interesting.

Extractions in the chair used to be a big part of dentistry – at one stage, in the 1960s and ’70s, problem teeth were simply pulled (sometimes entire mouths of them) and replaced with dentures.

In the 1980s and ’90s, the thinking changed: then, everything possible was done to save the tooth, from fillings and root canal to crowns and bridges. Extractions fell completely out of favour.

Nowadays, there is the option of an implant – an individual synthetic tooth screwed into the jawbone on an indestructible titanium post. Although these come with a hefty pricetag (my dentist quoted me R10 000 for mine, which is the reason I shall probably see out the rest of my life with a sizeable gap at the back of my mouth), they are very handy replacements for comes to problem teeth, and for this reason, extraction has come back into fashion. But, interestingly, because dentists of a certain age – those who trained and practised in the 1980s and ’90s – did so few extractions, some of them apparently don’t know how to do this safely, and will refer their patients to either a much older or a much younger dentist to pull teeth in the chair.

I asked my dentist – who appears around my own age and therefore would probably fall into the ‘no-extractions’ category – if he’d done many. ‘This is my first,’ he said, and then waited until I’d reared up in the chair in panic before adding, ‘… today.’ Har-de-har-har.

… and a pain in the bum

I’d just like to give a shout-out to Officer GD Erasmus of the Swartland Metropolitan Police. He waved me down this morning at 8am outside the next town (five kilometres from where I live), when I was driving back from my customary early-morning mountainside walk with my dogs, and asked for my driver’s licence. ‘Oh, I live down the road,’ I said. ‘I’ve just taken the dogs for a walk up on the mountain, so obviously I didn’t bring my licence with me.’ The dogs, still lathered up from their run, wagged their tails in the back seat – it was clear I wasn’t making up a story.

‘You must carry your licence, it is The Law,’ he said, and took out his fines pad.

‘You’ve got to be kidding!’ I said. ‘Come on, if you’re going to be such a stickler, let me just go home and get my licence. I’ll be five minutes, if that.’

‘You have broken The Law and now you must pay,’ he said, and fined me R500.

Thanks, Officer Erasmus. I’ll sleep much easier tonight, knowing that you’re out there, upholding The Law. And I promise, tomorrow, when I leave home for my carefree morning stroll with my dogs, it will be with their leads in one hand and my bloody driver's licence in the other.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: