Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away and then gums and age and cracked root canals kicked in and our trip to Hastings was aborted.

After last Thursdays Eastbourne extravaganza each week was to be filled with a beano to a beauty spot in Blighty, BUT gums and age and cracked root canals kicked in and our trip to Hastings was aborted.

Many years ago I had a vanity flare up. All my amalgam fillings were to be removed and replaced with the Cosmetic beneficial white composite fillings made to look exactly like the colour of my own natural teeth. I went to a dentist in Tunbridge Wells who shall remain nameless, not out of respect but on account of my senior brain that can only retain information for as long as …..forget it.

The dentist had a beard and took long cycling holidays. He was gentle and fucking useless. So usless in fact, that all my top back teeth were removed, he told me it was the practice in Hollywood to pull out all the back teeth thus giving the look of Greta Garbo. Be that as it may I looked less like Greta Garbo and more like Greta Garbage. I spent thousands on root canal work with a dentist called Julian Lloyd Webber – no relation – who tipped me upside down and filled the surgery with the smell of burning rubber.

All went well for years and then, bugger me, a little crack here and a little crack there and before long I was funding a shoal of dentists for hang gliding adventures in South Africa and snorkelling holidays in the Maldives.

All continued quietly until I hit seventyfuckingtwo, then things broke and crumbled, in what seemed like the shuffling of a Zimmer frame. Eye lids shrink, bellies overhang and teeth break.

So there were we easing our way out of Eastbourne and I felt a twinge. Nothing major just a kind of gum stab.

By Saturday it had got worse and by Sunday I howled so loudly at the pain that Dennis jumped out through the cat flap to his erstwhile abuser.

I did call the dentist for their out of hour service but I’d missed their time frames. Do not get poleaxed at the weekend as no one will be around to mop up the mess. I tried to get an answer from 111 but after an hour holding on I decided to wait until Monday morning and have a full blown telephone campaign.

You know when you know you’re about to face a shit storm. I knew it on Monday 25th of October at 7.50a.m.

My cheek and chin were so large, so explosive, that even the old git thought I resembled The Elephant Man, not a good look if you don’t want to frighten the neighbours. I called the doctor’s phone number first. It was already engaged. I rung and re-rung on the second, every second until they finally answered. For 35 minutes I listened to nauseating music and the robotic voice telling me all about covid, the website and that they were experiencing a lot of abuse; that they had a zero tolerance policy and that all calls were recorded. I was in despair squealing at the cushion and rocking back and forth on the armchair like an old Rabbi from Jaffa. After 50 minutes the receptionist picked up.

‘We dont do Dental’ she said in that weary tone that receptionists have when they have laddered their tights and the day stretches out before them like a pair of Lisle stockings.
‘Call your dentist.’ she said with the compassion of a prison officer from Belmarsh.

I hung up – tears streaming over my bulging ckeek. I called the Dentist. I waited 35 minutes to be told that

‘You are NHS.’
‘You have only used our hygienist.’
‘We cant help you.’
‘You’ll have to go to the minor injuries unit.’
‘The number is…

I called the number, they were experiencing high levels of calls as well as high levels of abuse, so please hold the line. I would have bitten my lip to silence myself only my lip was now the size of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s tool kit.

Tracy answered.

‘Uckfield minor injuries unit.’
‘I’m in pain, blub blub -such pain – blub blub’
‘Oh darlin.’
‘Oh my dear woman’
Snivelling snotty gulps.
‘You could come here but I can’t guarantee you will get what you want.’
High pitched wailing.
‘I’ll call your doctor to see if I can do anything. You stay there darlin’ and I’ll call you back.’
I stayed there, well where the fuck was I going to go, carrying my inflated face before me.

The Northerner told me to phone another dentist. I did.

‘You’ll have to go private.’ said the receptionist with a warm but detached voice.
‘When can you fit me in?”
‘I’ll sshlbe shlthereth’ I dribbled.

At 9.45 Tracy called.

‘I’ve fixed you up with Doctor Lionel.’

I called the doctors surgery, putting the telephone on the back of the armchair as it went through 35 minutes of nauseating music and robotic ranting.

‘Hello is that Jeni?”
‘It’s Gail from the doctors surgery.’
‘The doctor will call between 10.15. and 10.30’

Too little too late!

I tried to explain I would be at a dentists and, ‘why couldn’t she have put me onto a doctor two hours earlier saving Tracy the trouble’.

‘We are short staffed said Gail.’ and hung up.

The Northern chauffeur drove me to the dentist.
At 10.20 we had to sit in the empty reception area to fill a form out to tell them I was neither insane, incontinent, nor in work.

The Arsenal supporting Turk; delicious voice; three children; who’s father supports Tottenham, sat me back in the chair. Hummed and hahhed, poked and prodded. – ouch – took an xray and said he would do everything he could to keep the tooth. I went home with an industrial strength antibiotic and a modicum of calm.

By Tuesday my face had inflated to the size of an aerodrome. So painful. I was swallowing Nurofen and Paracetamol like jelly beans.

On top of ‘Abscessgate’ Jim’s car failed it’s MOT, after eighteen years he was told it would be cheaper to hire a Maserati on a weekly basis than pay for the repairs.

I had no tears left for my darling ‘oosbind.

On Wednesday the old git had been refunded the tax and insurance money and given £200 cash for scrappage. My cheek and chin were now the size of Nairobi so, in my little grey car, the old man drove us back to the dentist for their 5.45 emergency slot. A new, young dental practitioner, with kind, watery blue eyes peeping over his mask, sat me down and told me there was a cracked root, that bugs were having a field day, and that the tooth would need to come out. He laid me back in the chair. The nurse held my hand and after four injections we were ready to rock and pull. The pesky molar came out in one. A suction pipe in my mouth hoovered up – I shall leave the rest to your imagination. With a numb cheek and dangling tongue I tried to say farewell.

Thursday saw us trundling back to the dentist for another box of antibiotics. The swelling had gone down on my cheek but the wattle under my chin was fancier than a Bernard Matthews Christmas Turkey. With Probiotics, Yoghurt plus acidophilus and a fortnight’s worth of bananas to suck, we headed home.

Today I woke at 5.45 and looked at my timetable of drugs.

Homeopathic remedies
I prised my mouth open with a little finger and sucked in some cold mashed potatoes as these kind of heavy duty drugs cannot be taken on an empty stomach and, since I can only open my mouth as far as a chaffinch chick, the eating process takes a little longer.

It is now, what other people call lunchtime on Friday the end of October.
My life is on hold.
My pain threshold has changed. It’s official toothache is worse than childbirth.
The chin is ticking, the cheek is shrinking and my usual optimism has gone the way of Hades.
The money that the ‘oosbind got for the scrapped car went on my scrapped tooth. I shall be living on mashed spuds and porridge for days and I’ll be going makeup free. Putting on lipstick is not only painful it makes me look like a camel.

Losing teeth often represents a fear of powerlessness, losing a back molar represents all sorts; ‘Teeth symbolise the basis of holistic oral health. Physically, teeth provide nourishment to the body by grinding food and acting as a gateway to the stomach. Spiritually, teeth are involved in the spiritual development by serving as stoic storehouses.’
Stoicism is defined as enduring pleasure or pain without showing emotion.
Hedonism is the polar opposite.
Well since I am neither a stoic nor a hedonist – I am a Jewish hysteric – I’ll just have to sit it out with Chicken Soup and Barley

Hastings will have to wait.

1 thought on “FANGS FOR THE MEMORY”

  1. The only ‘life advice’ I have ever been prepared to offer is: look after your teeth! This derives from a very early age – I was about 3 or so, riding a small tricycle & tipped over & nearly pulled my front tooth out. My father pushed it back in & took me to Guys emergency. Although it appeared to save the tooth, in fact it set up a weakness in the upper jaw. Track forward to the older tooth and a period of agony in the week between Xmas & the New Year with an abscess on the ‘adult’ tooth in my 15th year. So then a removal and a tooth on a plate – hence the cultivation of a Mona Lisa smile. Eventually got a false tooth. Fast forward to early 20’s and get an impacted wisdom tooth. So had general anaesthetic for an operation to remove the tooth. Woke with strange chest pains – apparently surgeon leaned on my chest in order to get leverage to extract the tooth! Spent convalescent week in Wales with my parents after exit from dental hospital at Kings Cross. I remember huddling miserably into a scarf at the top of Mount Snowdon. There are other stories & sadly, NHS dental services were very quickly devalued from the 70’s onwards. Toothache is horrendous – hunker down & keep warm. It’s about endurance.


Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.