If the human race were to be divided into two groups – the pluckier and more spirited ones on one side and the meeker and more timid ones on the other, then I daresay I would fall into the first group. There are a few situations however, in which I get hopelessly and haplessly out of my normal character, displaying all forms of anxiety and fear. One such experience is a visit to the medical practitioner who specialises in keeping my oral hygiene in shape – commonly known as a dentist. Even the thought of that visit sets my heart aflutter with an uncanny apprehension, entirely unworthy of the pride I feel about my normal fearlessness.
I know my dentist is a fine man with a high amount of intelligence, a kind heart and a good-natured smile. And so he appears always to me when I meet him in a social setting. But change that setting to his clinic where I visit him as a patient, and my brain distorts his good-humoured smile into a cacophonic cachinnation of an unnamed evil character that is sadistically salivating at the impending anguish he is about to unleash on his poor prey, namely yours truly. I am always unreasonably uncomfortable in the reasonably comfortable waiting area of his clinic. I try my best to keep myself occupied with the mindless magazines lying in the rack – they are the same magazines I find very readable and quite entertaining when I page through them at a nail or hair spa, but here, they make no sense to me. While I am trying unsuccessfully thus to keep myself distracted, I cannot help hearing all the muffled sounds of the master’s various instruments from the room inside, and it sends chills down my spine as I imagine myself the victim and him the perpetrator of the unmentionable things those instruments are capable of. And then the current victim comes out, and I see triumph in his eyes; I also catch an unmistakable streak of mocking mischief in that parting look that he gives to me when pushing the door to his freedom outside. I wonder why he looks at me as if I were a weirdo! The door to the inner room opens; the assistant villain comes out, calling my name – my time has come! With a deep breath, I summon all my fortitude and rise to the occasion.
I step into the sanctum sanctorum. It is ready with all the equipment of torture ready to introduce different customized forms of unwelcome sensations into my mouth! The familiar smiling face shows itself for a moment, before it morphs into that ugly image again. I manage a weak smile and probably also a greeting (courageous me!). Another deep breath and I seat myself into the chair. I silently put on the glasses the assistant proffers. Normally a stickler for spotlessly clean glasses, I am thankful for the cloudy surface of this pair – it will allow me to not see what I am about to suffer. The kind voice asks me about the purpose of my visit, and there is some minimal conversation where my voice seems to be providing the information, while I am in another world. There is some exchange about the need for taking x-rays – another way of inflicting insults on me by showing my otherwise decent-looking teeth in the most grotesque way possible, displaying all the fillings and other fixes that I would rather keep hidden inside than see as the naked truth in front of my eyes. My normal feisty self would never stand for such insults. But in this room, the place of that feistiness is taken by meek nods of assent – I scorn and mock at this temerity!
The next thing that happens is that the suction tube (called the saliva ejector) is hooked in place on one side of my mouth. I have often wondered at the irony of what my mouth is salivating at, at this point in time, that it needs to be sucked dry in this embarrassing manner! Anyway, the x-ray happens – quite uneventful, other than the little plate of film that is thrust in my mouth to be held tightly between my teeth, and the hemming, hawing and clicking of the x-ray machine. I stifle a giggle when the master and his assistant step out just before the x-ray machine does its job, seeing how scared they are of the least scary of their own toys! Momentarily, I feel like myself again, but that feeling disappears as if on cue, as the white coats are back in the room. Other than the unmentionable ugly inserts made in my teeth on previous occasions, the x-ray reveals an opportunity of torture that he is waiting for and I am fearing.
The steel tray with all the instruments of torment is out now – I look at them from a corner of my eye – even through the cloudiness of my glasses, their evil glint is inescapable. The mouth mirror to help the master discover avenues to play in, the dental probe with its sickle-shaped tip which I know will find its way into every crevice in my teeth, the scalers, curettes and a variety of other shiny, long, curiously curved and incisively pointed spindles that will be find themselves inside my mouth, and little bottles and tubes of materials that will cement the inglorious action about to be witnessed by my mouth. From another corner of my eye, I also see the dreaded drill dangling demonically on the rack. My eyes can take no more, and close shut. The minutes after that which seem like a lifetime, are full of physical fillings and emotional feelings, rendering my mouth wet with liquid sprays and dry with suction and tension, all at the same time. The click and scrape of the cleaning instruments, the squeak of the probe viciously looking for weaknesses in my teeth and gums, the burr and screech of the drills, the scratching of the scalers, the patting of the fill into a cavity – all sounds that are amplified to reverberate in my oral and cranial spaces with a booming intensity. I can feel my neck, jaw, shoulders all stiffen sometimes in sequence and sometimes in unison, in reaction to the different types of action happening in my mouth. Firm instructions from the master to his assistant and the relatively more gentle ones to his victim punctuate the sound of the instruments working on me – “FORCEPS… Relax your tongue…. Tilt your head a bit more to the left… KEEP THE SALIVA EJECTOR IN PLACE …. Open your mouth just a bit more please … We are almost done, just a few more minutes ”. My mouth is filled alternatively with water and air from different instruments that he deftly handles – I begin to wonder if he gets additional hands to do everything he does in that time. I am asked a few times to get up and rinse my mouth – my eyes stay shut when I do so because they don’t want to look at what is coming out. More clicks, scrapes, drills, pats, and then with a final flourish, he says, “We are done. Here, let me show you in this small mirror how it looks”. Is he joking???? Why would I want to look at the bruises from this torture? Despite my inhibitions, my eyes look into that mirror he is showing me. And I see a pretty normal inside of my tooth. No bruises, no wounds. Another big sigh of relief. This time he senses it and laughs benignly.
The light over my head goes off, my cloudy glasses come off, and as I blink my eyes open, the smiling face of my dentist greets me, as he says, “Are you okay”? Surprisingly, the sight of his smiling visage does not morph this time into anything evil, I feel okay and normal, no after-effects of the torment visible. The first sense of relief begins to send soothing sensations of relief into my tensed being. He shares a few final instructions about what to do and what not, and when he wants to see me in this den again. I nod a hasty assent, collect my things, wear my shoes and run out into the relative comfort of the waiting room. As I pay, I glance at the teenager who is waiting to go in next. I smile at him and wonder about his weird no-smile look back. As I push the door open to my freedom, I glance back at him; his strange expression makes me positively believe there is something wrong with him. As I step out into the sunshine, I feel very happy. My normal spunk and pluck is back. My dear dentist (did I call him by another adjective earlier?) has restored the strength of my teeth so I can grit them when I have to, to be in my normal gritty character for at least a few more months. And the story of my scared self-scarred sojourn will stay safely shelved in his sanctum sanctorum, showing how I successfully survived this ordeal literally by the skin of my teeth…
~ Musingly Yours.