How to suffer week of hell – and survive

IT’S remarkable that a sore tooth makes your world crumble faster than day-old brownies.

That I’ve lived to tell the tale – after a week from hell – is testament to the magic of modern pharmacy and the knowledge that I’m not alone; somewhere in the world, right now, somebody’s molar is hurting too.
I’m a dental denialist, which is a common problem for people who prefer to not have their mouths yanked open, pinched by needles and drilled with sharp objects. If teeth were a biological optional extra, I’d probably opt for the soft food and liquid diet approach. I’d skip nuts and biltong for life if only to avoid the possibility of pain.
The old saying, “you’ve hit a raw nerve’’, was almost definitely coined for thousands of martyrs throughout history who died with fewer teeth and creeping gum disease rather than facing the fear and getting it filled anyway. While I’m not extreme – I will go, if I have to – there are those who simply cannot; and after my experience last week, they have my sympathy.
Odontophobia – from the Greek work for tooth, odont – describes patients for whom the dentist’s chair is akin to execution. And any bad experience – no matter how small – can easily turn anyone from casually nervous into odontophobically terrified.
As one who prefers to be in complete, freakish control of her environment, I have a stock script for any medical professional let loose near my mouth.
It’s a simple formula and, as long as everybody agrees and follows my instructions, I’m likely to remain docile; at least until the anaesthetic wears off.
The problem with scripts is that they have endless potential endings.
And when I decided to have a troublesome tooth extracted recently, I wasn’t expecting to star in a thriller, rather than a happilyever-after. I have very strong, stubborn, Scottish teeth. As a result, while they’re inclined to break at will, they’re also inclined not to, when somebody else tells them to.
And that results in over two hours of knocking about in a horizontal chair, dribbling saliva and wishing that you hadn’t worn light foundation, since it’s rubbing off on you, the dentist and his instruments.
The thing is that you never leave a dentist’s office feeling light and airy. It’s not a spa. You know you’ll be back, because having your mouth poked is like peeling an onion – more hidden problems emerge, just when you thought you’d zapped the lot by finally submitting to a root canal or R2 000 worth of multiple fillings.
As Podge, my wise but horrendously unsympathetic friend, always says : “Suck it up buttercup. If you’re alive, you’re lucky.”
Which is true, I suppose. And, with Scottish teeth comes Scottish attitude, meaning that no matter the oral horror, I refuse to not live a full and interesting life in the first few hours postsurgery; so I will suck it up – my wine, through a straw, in slow and painful sips.