In order to spare the feelings of anyone who might happen to read this I am not posting a photo of my face. I look like something out of a horror movie. The sight would be too horrifying for most people. Especially anyone who knows what I look like normally. But just to give you a general idea – think of Charles Laughton in the classic film The Hunchback of Notre Dame. OK, I’ll grant the dentist this: he didn’t give me a hump on my back. But what has happened to my face is, in my opinion, even worse.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. The dental X-rays showed that some of my teeth were in a bad shape. Treatment would be required. At first it looked as if a large old filling on a molar would have to come out and be replaced by a new one. Fine. I’m prepared to have fillings done, provided I get all the desensitizing injections that make the process tolerable.
The first dentist, supposedly an expert in his field, removed the said filling and then proceeded to give me a long explanation, most of which I didn’t understand, about the sorry state of what roots were left. I gathered that this meant that there was nothing for it but to extract the offending tooth. However, the state of the rotten roots was so grave that not even a crown could be considered. The only solution, in his view, would be to put in an implant – a procedure that is extremely long, tortuous and expensive. I could only gulp and nod in helpless acceptance of my fate.
But the hapless tooth would be extracted by another, even more expert dentist, a professor no less, whose proficiency in his field is acknowledged worldwide. The appointment was duly made, and I was taken like a lamb to the slaughter by my devoted husband. The extraction was to be implemented at the same time as another dental procedure, the preparation for a previously-ordained implant, and since the two teeth involved were fairly near one another, it seemed advisable to undertake the two together.
The process of preparing a mouth for an implant procedure is interesting. A surgeon’s hat is placed over the patient’s hair, the body is swaddled from the neck to the waist, the head, including the eyes and nose, is wrapped in material so that the only part visible is the mouth. The dentist and his assistant are also dressed in surgical gear, so one has the impression that this is going to be a very sterile and professional procedure.
Several painful injections later the dentist started to work on my mouth, drilling, digging, burrowing and screwing, exerting all his considerable energy on wrestling that darn tooth to the ground. In my head I was trying to sing Brahms’ German Requiem, a performance of which I had attended the previous night. I also wondered if what I was feeling was in any way akin to what my grandparents must have felt in the Auschwitz gas chambers (no, it never leaves me).
I suppose one could say the dentist was ultimately successful, as after an hour or so of vigorous activity he declared my mouth to be rid of the loathsome tooth.
The wrappings were removed from my face and body, and my slightly wobbly legs took me out of the surgery to where my husband was waiting, equipped with chocolate ice-cream and sympathy. The shocked look on his face and the uncharacteristic panic in his voice when he uttered the phrase ‘What’s this!’ told me that something was amiss.
The entire side of my face had swollen. My skin had turned bright red. It looked to him as if a big red balloon had been placed atop my neck. The dentist, who seemed to be similarly alarmed, took me back to the surgery and tried by force to depress the swollen cheek. He’s big and strong. It hurt. Nothing doing. “Well, at least it irons out the wrinkles,” he said with a playful smile. I did not appreciate the humour.
“Put ice on it,” the dentist called after us as my husband led me out of the surgery.
Yes, the swelling went down gradually over the next few days, though eating, talking and smiling are still difficult one week later. But worse was to come. My face turned all the colours of the rainbow. I have two big black eyes (just like the song), with purple, blue and wine-coloured bruises around my mouth, chin and neck.
I have not felt up to leaving the house for a week, and although the pain and discomfort have subsided I am still too embarrassed to be seen by anyone but my close family. Heavy makeup helps to some extent, but tends to wear off after a while.
So that’s it. I’ve had it with dentists. Until every single tooth in my head rots itself to death I’ll think twenty times before venturing into another dentist’s surgery.