Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Mental flossing

I was at the dentist yesterday and found myself reflecting on what a different experience it is now to that of forty years ago. Society's ever-increasing obsession with the 'perfect' appearance generally troubles me, but at least it's done our mouths a favour. In the pursuit of a smile so bright white it could compete with car headlights in a 'Dazzle the Rabbits' competition, and jaws so immaculately regular you could name a well-known Blondie album after them (and I don't mean Eat To The Beat), people are taking more care of their choppers. (Phew, that was a long sentence...) It's even happening here where we are famed, in the most uncomplimentary way, for our 'English Teeth'.  Dental clinics have become dental 'emporiums' and the one I go to now has a name that sounds more like a cocktail lounge than anything remotely medical.

As a typical child growing up in '70s Britain, an essential part of my daily diet was sugar, and it was usually taken two to three times a week in concentrated Spangles, Milky Way and Sherbet Pip form. It provided just the right amount of hyperactivity for important pursuits like French Skipping, but my teeth fared less well and by the time I was twelve my open mouth boasted an impressive display of silvery amalgam fillings. Then, just when I was at my most self-conscious, I had to wear two dental braces - simultaneously.  I could set off metal detectors three streets away with ease, but speaking and eating required supreme effort.

The local dental surgery was a familiar place for all the wrong reasons, so my mum used to make each ordeal a little more bearable by promising a small present on the way home. Once she'd wiped the dribble from my chin, she'd take me down to my favourite shop, Pearman & Blacker, where the delights on its many racks and displays let me temporarily forget the fuzzy sensation in my cheek or an aching jaw. No, it wasn't a sweet shop; that would have just been in bad taste. It was a bookshop.  That smell of paper-and-printing-ink overrode the essence of antiseptic in my nostrils, the crisp covers promised magic carpet rides to lands where dentists didn't exist.

I have mercury fillings, corrective braces, extractions, anaesthetics and injections to thank for the shelves in my childhood bedroom becoming filled with Puffins and other paperbacks. Mrs Pepperpot, Five Children and It, the Moomins, Spike Milligan's Milliganimals, the Children of Green Knowe and even the Wombles all came into my life via my teeth. Fortunately those frequent trips to the dentist mean they are stronger and straighter now, but I'm very glad the legacy of a '70s childhood was so much more than just the tooth decay.


17 comments:

  1. I did not go to the dentist for 10 years and when I went recently, I only needed one filling...but I also had a 'deep' clean in 3 sessions 5 jabs each time. I vowed I will go back every 6 months.
    I do not like this obsession with briant white teeth. In fact getting any cosmetic surgery(unless neccessary) I find wrong, especially the lips. I prefer a natural quirk to a barbie smile...think I will stop there while i'm ahead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've obviously looked after your teeth, Old Pa, sounds like you're good to go! I go regularly and luckily they're fine now, it really is worthwhile looking after them - just wish I hadn't eaten all those boiled sweets when I was a nipper!
      And I'm with you all the way re. non-medical cosmetic surgery, I could happily rant on about that... I think we're born with the lips that suit us - and other things too! - and why anybody would have injections or operations that they don't need is totally beyond me. Our little quirks and the huge variety of physical shapes, sizes and characteristics are what make us human, natural and individual. We should celebrate it!

      Delete
  2. I went through a period where I neglected going for my regular cleanings...and boy am I glad I did.

    I've had regularly scheduled visits to fix old fillings, deep cleans, and a root canal...I bring the headphones in and me and Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, etc...get hammered on gas.

    It's a joke among the staff. Last time I was in to finish up part of cleaning (nothing is worse than the scraping) the dentist comes in and ask the hygienist why she didn't gas me.

    "He's the best patient at this practice when he's gassed," she said..."You could cut his arm off and he wouldn't care." The other girl that normally assists threatened to have the hygienist fired for not giving me the gas...hahahaha.

    I love my dentist...she's at the top of my Christmas Card list. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, how come you manage to make a trip to the dentist sound so wild ... you "get hammered on gas"! Hammered? On gas?!
      What is this stuff? I don't think we can have it here. If we did maybe there'd be no such thing as 'English Teeth'...

      Delete
    2. Laughing gas...nitrous oxide and it is glorious.

      The first thing that happens...I sit down, she hooks me up and tells me she's gonna give me 15 minutes to let is sink in...I fire up the ipod. By the time they come back with the needles I'm on another planet. I'm not bashful about asking for it either and now that they're sure I'm not going to get sick...they lay it on. I fell asleep while they were drilling last time.

      I don't make in bones about it...I'm there for the recreational drug use. Getting my teeth fixed is just a bonus. Ha

      Delete
    3. Hehe, brilliant! I'm still laughing (and that's without any gas)
      Just don't get too hooked, or you'll have no teeth left...

      Delete
    4. What's funny is going into a little diner or grocery, for work, and discovering that what was a case of canned whipped cream...is now a case of canned milk.
      They use nitrous for a propellant in that stuff, if you hold the can straight up, that's all that comes out.

      Employees will use it for whippets...hahahahaha...gettin' high on the owners whipped cream.

      Delete
    5. Well I never! So I guess that explains the 31 cans of whipped cream stashed away in the back of your kitchen cupboard ;-)

      Delete
  3. How I recognise this tale of teeth. I have a theory that dentists used kids to gain experience handling the drill back in the bad old days, which I'm sure accounted for the poor state of my teeth. As a child I had a head full of fillings and have fared little better as an adult. Of course, I did eat quite a few sweets but probably no more than my kids do - and they have about one filling between them. Funnily enough, I was at the dentists today - one massive filling (ouch), some x-rays and more treatment to come. It's a sad story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, now there's a theory! It would explain their gung-ho attitude... There must be something in the air this week, I was at my French class tonight, only three of us there, we started talking about what we'd done this week and all of us had been to the dentist. And now you too - weird! But I do hope your next treatment session is smooth and painless. Buy yourself a book on the way home!

      Delete
  4. How on earth did you all manage to find a dentist? The majority of my friends and family here in the North West and Wales have had to do without dentists for the last decade or more because no-one will take on any non private patients... I've been lucky so far but presume I will have a gummy old age!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh that's not good (but if you ever consider a change of career you could do worse!) For some reason down here there are about six dental clinics in my nearest small town and they all advertise for new NHS customers. We still have to pay a nominal NHS fee but it's not bad - wouldn't be worth the petrol money/train fare for you to get here though I'm afraid... ;-) Good luck!

      Delete
  5. I needed no treats to induce my cooperation and good behaviour when I was a child, I had a fair bit of work done at a young age (including a brace...shudder!) by our kindly family dentist (Mr Lister) and wasn't freaked out at all by the experience. Quite a brave little lad on reflection! No, it was later that the (mental) damage was done by a barbaric b*****d who seemed to get some kind of glee from my pain & fear and as a result I've not been to a dentist since. Where's Mr Lister when I need him?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you were lucky to have such a kind dentist as a child (my very first one was horrible!) but so sorry to hear later experiences were obviously traumatic, that is terrible. I think dentistry has improved a lot in the last twenty years but perhaps you have to 'shop around'?!

      I'd recommend mine - a kind, smiley and friendly man of Iranian descent who also happens to be rather exotically good-looking - funny how I don't mind going to the dentist so much these days ;-) And then there's e.f. bartlam's female dentist who sounds a gas (sorry) - but you'd need another reason to go to Mississippi!

      I wish you luck if you need to find one. I'm sure there are some more Mr Listers out there :-)

      Delete
    2. We also have a couple of dentist who offer sedation dentistry. Southerners carry the same dental stereotype as Britons.
      Noone ever accuses Southerners of being merely inbred. We are toothless inbreds. [smiles].
      Anyway these practices specifically address folks with your hang up Swede...people who had a horrific experience that has put them off the dentist forever. Their solution is to knock you out...you wake up its over.

      Delete
  6. Seriously in the 60s/70s a common tea for me sat in front of Blue Peter, Animal Magic, Crackerjack etc. was the following...

    1. Bowl of mashed up banana, with added milk (preferably the creamy bit of the top) with a spoon or two of sugar in it.
    2. Accompanied by one or two slices of white bread, with butter on and on the butter a generous sprinkling of... sugar!
    3. Glass of warm milk - sweetened with... yes you guessed it a spoon or two of sugar.

    No wonder I don't have a single tooth in my mouth that hasn't had the ravages of the dentist drill in it at some point in time. It is a miracle that I've only two crowns (one a rugby accident and the other to make it look better when they fixed all that stuff) All the rest are still mine, although there is probably more filling than tooth if you weighed it all up across them all

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brilliant!
      Us '60s/'70s kids must have got through an awful lot of sugar. That banana dish does sound rather yummy, though...

      Delete

Please come in, the door is open

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...