*That being approximately the number of nearly intact molars I seem to have left in my mouth, not counting caps.
Ray, my dentist of thirty-odd years, retired at the end of last year, shortly after I’d made my appointment for yesterday’s check-up. (I’d like to think this was a coincidence.) So I was a bit nervous when I turned up ten minutes early. Usually I grit my teeth and let them do the necessary, but a new, unknown dentist is bound to be a challenge. The fact that the surgery didn’t open for another ten minutes didn’t help either.
I needn’t have worried. He was charmingly camp, in an eastern European way. The first thing he said was ‘I won’t ask you how you are, you’re well enough to get here and I’m not a doctor. So, how are the teeth?’
I told him. Unlike doctors, dentists can’t be lied to. The next thing he did, after counting them and explaining very objectively the condition of the five worthy of mention, was ask me if I had time for him to repair the two most urgent. The other three, he explained, could wait. I asked how much time.
‘Depends whether you want anaesthetic,’ he replied. ‘That takes a bit longer, obviously.’
By now I’d got the hang of this guy’s drill-side manner, so I swiftly decided to be equally honest with him. ‘I’ll take the chance, but if I can’t bear it I’ll let you know.’ He smiled behind his mask. ‘Shouldn’t be too bad.’
It wasn’t. A few minutes in, he asked if I was okay: ‘don’t lie to me, now.’ And towards the end, ‘are you still with me?’ When he’d finished practically rebuilding the tooth that, it seemed, had been about to fall to pieces without my noticing, he filed a bit off a back one which had been nagging at my tongue. The entire process took about half an hour, and was miraculously painless. I cannot praise this man’s skill highly enough. Or his entertainment value.
And the whole performance (for that was what it was) cost me just £51.30. I couldn’t help wondering what the one pound thirty covered, but thought it best not to ask.