One of the funniest things I heard last year was how the various lockdowns were making us nostalgic about a visit to the dentist. It was probably meant to cheer us up or make the average dentist look good.
Maybe I come from another planet. But one of the few consolations for me was that I wouldn’t have to visit the dentist. And suffer thrice for it – before the visit shaking with nervousness, during the visit for obvious reasons, and after the visit while bravely bearing the post-visit pain.
In fact – and I confess this here for the first time – I haven’t been to the dentist in about a decade, but the regular visits earlier have carved images in my mind rather like those animals our ancestors drew on their cave walls. And they are not as difficult to interpret.
I can forgive the jollity of the dentist in that moment before he shoves a drill into my mouth – the poor man has probably looked up a joke for just that occasion after having run out of laughing gas. And I can, with effort, ignore the messages all his instruments send out just by sitting quietly around me: this one for knocking out teeth ha ha, that for searching for them in my stomach, and so on.
But what of that tiny mirror and the torch on his head (or am I confusing him with a miner, after all it was so long ago). And that superior air with which he says, "Hmmm, this one must go," or "Don’t you floss your teeth?"
He once told me (I told you dentists were funny): "If your teeth become more yellow, you will have to wear a brown tie to go with it." He was a fashion advisor too. Sometimes he cracked jokes about the gaps in my teeth. "I could drive a car through," he would say. I had a brilliant reply to that – but he always had his hand in my mouth then, and I couldn’t speak. Later of course, it was too late.
And worst of all is when my mouth fills up with all kinds of liquids and it seems like an eternity before I can spit into that little basin beside the chair.
People have done different things during the pandemic. Some have learnt music, others have learnt how to cook. Many have written poetry. But no one has written a poem on dentists or written a sonnet on how they missed these smile twisters.
Do dentists make a lot of money? I don’t know. After all, they live a hand-to-mouth existence. On the other hand, they have so much to bribe the tooth fairy with.