My teeth have been my sore points (literally) since I was a child. My dad, God rest his soul, firmly believed in going to the dentist at the first sign of teething issues. So starting from when my first milk tooth started shaking, I had to visit the chair every few weeks till I lost them all. The doctor, if I remember correctly, was a Dr. Gulati who loved taking teeth out, especially children’s (and I never saw a tooth fairy till date). That spectacled wicked smile (remember, to me he was the villain who had a thing for my teeth, maybe he was secretly a vampire and made a garland of all extracted teeth, ugh), that horrible looking contraption in his hand coming closer and closer to my mouth and I was terrified. Needless to say, I consider him responsible for all that is wrong in my mouth today. Since I could not prevent him from messing around in my mouth cavity, I found other ways. He would say strictly, don’t touch there with your tongue, I would defy him and do that continuously for the next few days.
My first sign of real trouble started when I was in college. My best friend was getting engaged and I was staying over with her to take part in all the festivities. That night I had a toothache like never before. The pain would start somewhere deep down and moved all the way up to the head. Then a minute’s relief and then it would start all over again. Only thing that soothed was cold water. So all through that evening with all the fancy food around, all I did was drink water and hide my pain- I did not want to bother my friend, it was a big day for her. Next day, first thing, I had to rush to a dentist, without the need for any force. “For there was never yet a philosopher – that could endure the toothache patiently”. My first ever canal to the root, back to the chair for a number of sittings, feeling that whirr sound inside you, stomach tied up in knots, both hands tightly would up. I don’t remember how I handled that torture chamber, but I survived. (BTW, did I remember to tell you I had horrible a brushing routine, I always managed to spoil all brushes in a week or two at max- I still do, but don’t really know what all areas get really cleaned, but I reiterate. Dr. Gulati is the root cause of all the suffering in the root).
I love my teeth, imperfect, large, unaligned, overlapping, broken, no matter what. I was also given the adjective of “funny” for them. who cares? Love me, love my teeth.
Next big brush was a couple of years later at the hostel. Deja vu, I had a similar pain in a different tooth. And I was all alone. Called up my dad, he asked me whether he should come. I bravely said no, I’ll handle it. This false bravado will be a death for me some day. I thought I’ll go to Safdarjang hospital. After 2 hours of waiting in the q, the lady dentist opened my mouth, scrambled inside and gave her verdict in 2 lines. You need 4 teeth extracted, 2 from top and 2 from bottom and then you need braces. 4? Look, I have a toothache in 1. Of yes, that we have to extract anyway. And if you don’t do what I am telling you, nobody will marry you. !!! Well, whoever marries me has to marry all of me, including all my teeth. I left there never to return. Finally found a small clinic right opposite IIT, who did the extraction for me. Once you have gone through root canal, extraction can be handled. Me and big mouth returned back to the hostel with a swollen jaw and one tooth less.
By this time I had concluded that I don’t like this species of people called dentists. I even had random thoughts about why there had to be so many teeth in the human mouth cavity, maybe one end to end tooth would have been good, no space and hence no cavities, did alligators get toothache? Why did teeth have to fall and grow again, what had wisdom tooth got to do with wisdom and other spurious thoughts? My next encounter was on the way as I had toothache once more and need a root canal again. This time I went to Gangaram hospital. I have mostly encountered lady dentists in my life and I haven’t quite figured out why? This lady would have been hilarious if she wasn’t scavenging in my sensitive areas. The room had two chairs and two doctors were doing whatever stuff dentists do to their patients. She was talkative. She just told me, let me know if you feel any pain, then she started her drill and kept talking to the other doctor, she never glanced in my mouth once. What if u are drilling the wrong tooth, what if your drill slips and hurts my gums, at least SEE what you are doing. But how do u shout with that thing in our mouth. That is something that has always puzzled me, they put that thing in your mouth and then ask whether you are ok, all u can do is gurgle which they probably interpret as fine J. This episode steeled my determination to end my association with dentists going forward. And my level of dental hygiene just went up one notch.
Unfortunately for me, my old sins have been playing catch up, once an year my teeth want to see the chair again, I fight it as long as I can, till the time I can eat and drink and it is bearable and then finally I pay a visit to the chair with clenched hands and shout at every touch of the metal till she is forced to give me anesthesia at least twice. My latest doctor at Pune, who happens to be a friend, knows my dento-phobias and deals with me with patience befitting a school teacher training a singularly dumb child.
“Some tortures are physical
And some are mental,
But the one that is both