Thursday, 4 August 2011

Images from the glory days

As it is said, but in another context, many years ago in the eponymous film, it is just a period of adjustment.

While I adjust to paying large legal bills, I decided it was high time I saw a dentist. In the last year of Dr P's life, it was not possible to go out of the house for long, and thus such things were deferred.

My previous dentist was a nice man, but oh, so slow. He had no dental nurse, and everything took a very long time indeed. This is bad for a person who has a rabid but highly reasonable and well-based fear of dentists and dental treatments.

What was more, he had a TV on the ceiling and horrid programmes - supposedly to calm down the patient, but in my case, merely adding to the angst.

So it was time to look around and find a new dentist. I chose one from an ad in a local newspaper. Who says that advertising does not pay? If they did, they were WRONG.

To my shame and embarrassment, I have few teeth left, and they have almost passed their use-by date. It really is time to get something done. Years of eating too many sweets, lack of self-discipline, infrequent and terrifying dental treatment in my youth, dental treatment which tended to opt for extractions, have all played their part in my parlous dental condition. I am embarrassed by and ashamed of all this.

So I fronted up to this new and very high tech dentist, to investigate the options. Implants and the like.

It will cost heaps. Very big heaps. Faced with the prospect of high legal bills, which may or may not give me the freedom of choice I require, I decided that if I am squandering (as it were) pots of dough through the city, I might as well squander some on dentistry.

When I arrived, I had to fill out a medical and general history form, which asked, inter alia, the level of my fear of dental treatment. I gave it 8 out of 10. I do not intend to be any braver than I have to be, these days. All my courage is being used up on other even more unpleasant things, and I will happily opt for anaesthetics to help me avoid physical pain and appalling levels of fright. It is very wearing and upsetting trying to be brave most of the time. Sometimes, it seems a good idea to allow yourself to fall apart.

I had to endure the head-shaking, and the adverse reflections on the state of my teeth and what had been done to them, and was then presented with the various options, all nicely tucked into a folder, complete with estimated costs, and colour photographs, for my consideration and final choices. The dentist looked at my denture and opined that my teeth would not have looked like that. "No", I said, "They didn't, but not a lot of notice was taken of what I said way back then". I said I had an old photo and that I would bring it in for him to look at.

I did so, this afternoon, and gave it to the dental nurse. 'Oh', she said, "Is this what you want your teeth to look like?" "They are my teeth", I said, "This is a photograph of me."' I could see her astonished reaction flashing around her transparent mind. There is nothing like increasing age and  decrepitude to make you abandon (most of your) vanity. Grim reality, hey! Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.

Then she said, "Oh, look at your lovely thick hair". My hair is not thick, and the photo was a studio portrait taken when I was about 20, so I look much prettier and more glamorous in that photograph than I ever did or do in real life. And in those days, hairdressers teased the hair to make it as bouffant as possible.  Little did I know then the uses to which this photo would eventually be put. Oh tempora, oh mores.

It had been a busy day, and I arrived home in the late afternoon, having virtuously walked from various Point As to Point Bs. (I am trying to get fitter.) The doorbell rang as I sat there enjoying some idleness.

It was the Census Collector, giving me my form, and urging me to complete it on line. I might, but then again, I might not.

In the last Census, in 2001, I was a Census Collector. It was a most interesting experience, and a lot of hard work. The pay was not commensurate with the effort required. I noted then how few young children and babies there were. Ten years on, they are ubiquitous.  The young have moved into this suburb and have been nesting. Pregnancies, babies, toddlers, prams and pushers abound. You can trip over them everywhere. Especially in the cafes. There are still lots of old people living here, who increasingly need help and support services.

I went through the questions on the Census form, and feel I have slipped through the cracks. I am widowed now, having spent a couple of years as a carer, and my housing situation is anomalous. Most of the questions do not really apply to me, but they did a year or so ago. I don't know quite how to answer some of these questions.  I could always do a Dr P and make up the answers, or I could stick a pin and choose that way. But no, I cannot do that. Truth is my middle name.


Dartford Warbler said...

Getting your teeth sorted out seems like a really good and positive project. It sounds as though you have been a very caring person who has put her own needs "on the back burner" for years. You will feel so much better when the treatments are over, and stronger for having faced your fears!

I do sympathise. I had some bad experiences of post war dentistry as a child and it is only in the last few years, having found a proficient and sympathetic dentist, that I no longer dread that six monthly visit. They do seem to include psychology on the dentistry syllabus now, which is a very good thing!

Best of luck with choosing your treatments!

VioletSky said...

It was an abscessed tooth that got me back in a dentist's chair and it was a stroke of luck that, going through the Yellow Pages, I found one who was nearby, and used 'laughing gas'. He was also very friendly and reassuring. Gradually, over time, he forgot to use the gas and I somehow didn't speak up but have found that the procedures have improved immeasurably and now I don't fear him at all. I still don't like it, but I don't fear it.

You will feel so much better once you see the results.

I have always wanted to fill out the 'long form census' but have always gotten what seems to be the most useless short form. I enjoy filling out surveys.

Frogdancer said...

I laughed at your description of the photo!

Frances said...

Decades ago, when I was about 10, it was easy and convenient for me to go to the dentist by myself.
Several times during a session he would place his hands around my chest, and run them down my body. Hardly a major assault: it just puzzled and embarrassed me. Naturally, my embarrassment meant that I didn't tell my mother.
Oddly, he had two daughters about my age, one of whom was in a class taught by my mother.
Is that the reason that I've avoided the dentist for the last decade or so, and am confident and ashamed that my teeth are surely in a worse state than yours? I don't think so, but there is certainly a shying away from the intimacy.
Do dental surgeries still have that awful smell?
As well as all the legitimate physical reasons for tooth loss, my fancy is that there is also something about personal power, so I'm glad that you are reclaiming yours.