I, via the random lottery of genetic inheritance, have very good teeth. I’ll admit that to any North American readers my dentition will place me firmly in the third world and only the most strongly photo-sensitive would require dark glasses to view my smile, but my teeth work day-in and day-out without complaint despite spending their whole lives stuck in my mouth (which, let’s face it, is a somewhat hostile environment).
I suppose that I should admit that nurture (and not just nature) may have had a part to play in my good dental health. I have (almost) always brushed them in the evening before going to my straw palliasse and I have never been especially fond of sweets – though credit (or blame) should probably go to my parents who made me brush my teeth and ensured that sweets were rarely available (except to suck on long car journeys) during my childhood. Despite these relatively good habits, I can count the number of times I’ve flossed or used an inter-dental brush on the fingers of one hand – and have quite a few digits in reserve – so I am no saint when it comes to oral hygiene.
I’m fairly sure I visited the dentist at the prescribed intervals as a child, but have few recollections beyond a sequence of Antipodeans calling out the standard mantra of numbers and occlusions that is the lot of the dentist. I do remember spending quite some time with a brightly coloured liquid flowing round my teeth, I believe to infuse them with fluoride ions, which may have done some good. I also wore a brace for a while as my teeth where extremely wayward in their growth – as above, anyone from the US would view them as being pretty wayward still but they do mostly meet in the middle (sufficient to eat, which is all that worries me). The brace is also to blame for my general failure to eat crisps – when it was first removed, the roof of my mouth was very sensitive to sharp objects, having been so long protected, and eating crisps was painful. I have never fully re-acquired the habit – good habits are always so much more satisfying if acquired by accident rather than intent.
I also remember my final childhood dentist, Mr Holmes, as he was a heavy smoker and ever since I have associated smoker’s breath with the dentist – which might be considered to have affected my dating choices. It is quite hard to feel romantic when your mind is drawn ineluctably to fillings and the scraping off of tartar (though I’m sure there will be a few people out there that could manage it).
As an adult, I have been to the dentist very rarely – though I do try and put in an appearance once a decade for form’s sake. This is not due to any fear of the dentist’s chair (or what might occur therein) but because I begrudge the cost, given that I am always told how excellent my teeth are – this compliment is a long way from complimentary (nearer £70 as I recall). The last time, I suppose she did grind down my incisors to remove the very clear impression of a fork which I had left in them when my hunger had caused me to bite down more rapidly than anticipated on a tasty morsel (which made for slightly better value-for-money from the visit).
Today, I wandered into town in search of drugs – not to feed my unfortunate habit, but palliatives to manage my incipient cold or bout of man ‘flu. In the centre of Southampton was parked a van, offering free dental check-ups (while-you-wait!) – and passing this started me thinking about my last visit to the dentist. This would seem to have been in 1999 which means I have not allowed a professional to look at my teeth this millennium, so I decided to wander up to the van and sample their “wares”. In barely more than five minutes, I had popped my dental cherry for this millennium and was once again re-assured that I have excellent teeth – the best seen today (though I wasn’t given the opportunity to check out the competition). I also now know that I am missing at least one wisdom tooth (8) and one is only half erupted – which may suggest that greater wisdom is my destiny (or might merely explain my current lack of sagacity). There is also a small build up of tartar at the base of my front incisors – so I could go to the dentist and pay for some ultrasound, or just use my fingernail as usual.
Not only have I managed to have a free check-up without appointment and using up a mere five minutes of my day, but I was also given a free “goody” bag. What a marvel the NHS is! I think the goody bag may be aimed at a slightly younger clientele, as whilst it does contain a folding toothbrush the remaining contents were a bottle of water, a squeezy star and two (2!) balloons. If anyone fancies a very low budget party with dentistry as its theme, then I’m your man! I’ll try and lay on some pink cocktails – or a bottle of rosé – to keep the theme going. I even have a reclining chair we could use. Rinse and spit!
If anyone else is tempted back to the dentist’s chair after a long break (and lives in the UK), then do check-out the Toothbus (not a real bus) for details (well, it’s the least I could do).