Failed Toothache Remedies and This Brave Soldier’s First Filling

Steve Martin in 'Little Shop of Horrors.' As a frightened child, this psycho was second only to Portsmouth's Dr. Long, DDS
Steve Martin in ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’ As a frightened child, this psycho was second only to Portsmouth’s Dr. Long, DDS

I guess after thirty-three years without a filling and around twenty without anything being pulled out of my jaw I’d grown complacent in the face of tooth decay – arrogant even. Then early last week I took my last bite as a complete human – the tooth fairy had found me, and we had some catching up to do. The pain started slight and became an agony that spread around my face like a burning hedgehog that existed partially in another dimension but flickered in and out of it as it rolled through me, pausing only to kick my tooth in the balls when it got tired of this pan-dimensional torment.

Over the counter pain-killers in every conceivable combination did little to numb the pain. I went online for alternative remedies but as they say, when alternative medicine works they just call it medicine. Putting crushed garlic, pepper, oregano and salt in a teabag up inside my mouth next to the offending tooth burnt for a while and simply changed the wavelength of the pain. Although half a clove of garlic, crushed under a knife and held against the gum worked once when the pain was less severe.

The next idea required cayenne pepper and found me sitting outside a pub with my lady-friend as the Edinburgh Festival boomed around us; she looked on patiently as I created a cayenne paste on one of the numerous stand-up flyers. As I worked this paste up into and around my gums and teeth my mouth started to burn and red saliver began to dribble down into my beard. Although it did little for the pain, I know now where to get the kick my curries have been lacking of late.

I tried gargling with salt water but all that has done, no doubt spurred on by the garlic oil and spice, is remove layers of skin from my gums and mouth. Still the pain persisted. You know how it feels, you’ve all had it with your rotten teeth from all those sweeties you chomp on; but that’s not to say that I regarded myself as some kind of orthodontic X-man.

As a child I had a ‘double set of teeth’; teeth growing behind teeth, crowding my mouth like a broken conveyor-belt in an ugly factory. I had to go to that surgery week after week to have these bastards pulled, and Dr Long, DDS was not a gentle man. It goes some way to explaining why my mouth looks like someone threw a hand-grenade into a cemetery.

In case any Americans are reading this and thinking: ‘Fucking Brit teeth’ or similar: Well at least any of us who get pulled into a machine at work will, without question, be repaired without the need for the hospital to calculate how many fingers the insurance will cover sewing back on. High five, Britain.

I should have had a brace fitted, but I was already getting bullied at school so I didn’t want to give the swine any more ammunition. In retrospect, along with ‘do you want to have guitar lessons’, I believe my mother would have been better putting her foot down on me getting braces; as opposed to eating her beef casserole and going to a Catholic boy’s school. But I’m veering off topic here, and let me assure you, I love both Mummy and America, and bear them no ill will.

So there I am in Tesco – yes, my dentist is in Tesco – sat tense and pensive in the waiting room. Through the door next to me I can hear the tell-tale sounds and try to distract myself by looking through the glass at the shoppers instead. The door opens and out walks a middle aged woman, trembling, clutching an iPod: “The music helped?” asks the Dentist and she nods quickly, agreeing in a quivering brogue. It’s not many who can reduce a Scot like that. I meet her eyes and the mortified relief cannot hide the compassion she gives in that instant, knowing I’m about to sit in that same chair.

I enter the room and sit back to describe my first toothache. The Dentist takes a look at an x-ray that was taken in May and I can hear the consternation in his voice; he shows it to me and there is an unmistakable black hole in one of my molars – if it were my lung I’d be dead. I don’t ask him why it wasn’t dealt with then, I only want him to inject my gums with anaesthetic and drill the fucker into oblivion.

I ask him for nitrous-oxide but they don’t do that anymore. Noting that I am a big girl’s blouse he rubs a paste into my gums so I don’t feel the needle, yet still holds the unnecessarily large syringe in front of my eyes before going in for the kill. As you’ll know, you dirty mouthed little monster, the drilling itself isn’t so bad at all; it was when he started to buffer the rough insides when my skull buzzed along and nerves occasionally sparked. He gave me a temporary filling, saying to come back and have a proper one once the pain goes; I imagine if it doesn’t then there’ll be more drilling. Hooray.

I felt a bit weird walking out into the shop, must’ve been the anaesthetic. I spent an inordinate amount of time remarking to myself over the selection of different cheeses, a little bit high but then that could have been adrenaline and endorphins I suppose. My numb mouth felt swollen; I kept checking for leakage; I bought soft foods and wine.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a cyborg as one whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body. Now that my toothache’s gone I reckon I’m a cyborg too, just like the rest of you. Or maybe that’s just the Rioja talking.

The moral of this story would be to always take care of your smiles kids, because after careful experimentation – and in the absence of a skilled Dentist – the only things that really help with toothache are sex, street theatre and a mouthful of whisky.

I was a Good Boy at the Dentist

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