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Ball of pus

August 1, 2020

I could never be a spy. Oh, I might be good at part of it. You can’t work in journalism for years without figuring out how to get people to tell you things they probably shouldn’t. (Even “off the record” – to which I always adhered – can be pretty interesting.) However, if I was a spy and I got caught, I would never withstand torture. My captors wouldn’t have to lay a hand on me. All they’d have to do is show me a room filled with spiders and tell me they were going to put me in it, and I’d tell them anything they wanted to know. (It was for some reason incredibly reassuring to discover as a child that this was Emma Peel’s worst nightmare.) Either that or they could sit me down in a dentist’s chair.

I hate bloody dentists. As I have previously written, I have a small mouth, which makes many procedures more awkward and painful than they might be for others. From the moment the freezing needle appears until the procedure ends and I can finally release my white-knuckle grip on the arms of the chair, it is like torture to me.

Last year, on the final day of a road trip I made to the Okanagan with my friend Irmani, I got a toothache. This is something I absolutely dread. I managed the drive back to Vancouver to get Irmani on her plane and the ferry rides home by popping Tylenols like candy. By the time I woke up the next morning I had a huge pus ball in the roof of my mouth and was in absolute agony. I managed to get an appointment to see my wonderful doctor that day. He gave me a prescription for penicillin and told me to see my dentist when I’d finished the antibiotics. By the next morning the pus ball had disappeared and I was on the mend. See my dentist? Oh, ha, ha. I didn’t have a bloody dentist.

Yes, a few years earlier I’d been forced by a cracked tooth to make an appointment with the only dentist on the island. Aside from the fact that he at first told me I’d need a $1300 crown and then, after I’d told him simply that that was not going to happen, gouged me $330 for a filling. It wasn’t even made of gold. A couple of $100 follow up cleanings later I abandoned the dentist. I didn’t like him and I couldn’t afford his charges.

My hatred of dentists had not always caused me to avoid them completely. When I lived with Mike in Vancouver I had a lovely female dentist who I saw regularly. When I was back in London in the noughties I had another lovely female dentist. It wasn’t the fact that they were female that prompted me to visit (although it probably didn’t hurt). It was the fact that dentistry is covered – as it should be in every bloody country – by the NHS and that I was covered by Mike’s UBC dental plan in Vancouver. Being tortured is bad enough. Paying through the nose for the privilege of being tortured is frankly too much.

The only Canadian dentist I’ve ever had who seemed to appreciate how unfair this situation is was a guy in Toronto many years ago. When he informed me that all four of my wisdom teeth were impacted and would need to be removed (from under the gum line – gasp!), he told me I had two choices. I could either make four separate appointments with him and pay whatever the hell he was going to charge or he could arrange for me to go into hospital as a day patient and have all four removed at the same time, which wouldn’t cost me anything. Not surprisingly I went for the second option. I looked like I’d been in a prize fight afterwards and needed heavy duty pain killers for several days, but my bank balance was a lot healthier than it would otherwise have been.

Suffice to say, I did not make an appointment with the island dentist whom I did not like after the abscess cleared up.

Surprise, surprise, several months later the abscess flared up again. My wonderful doctor was away when this happened, so I had to see his locum. When she asked why I was there, I told her it was because I was an idiot. Yes, yes, yes, I should have seen a dentist the last time, but I didn’t, so now I needed another round of antibiotics.

In the years since I’d abandoned visiting the only dental practice on the island, another one had opened up. It just so happened that whilst I was on this second round of antibiotics there was a meeting of the Bad Girls Book Club. At said meeting I asked if anyone had any experience of this new dental practice. Yes, some of them said. There was a lovely female dentist they would highly recommend. Oh, really? The next morning I rang the practice and left a message asking to book an appointment. No one ever called back. Being a bad girl in many ways that do not include whether or not I could be bothered to read that month’s book, I did not try again. The pus ball had disappeared, the pain had gone. La la la la. Nothing to see here, folks. Everything is fine.

Oh, ha bloody ha.

Of course the fucking abscess is back. Flared up again earlier this week. Another call to the doctor’s office. My wonderful doctor (damn him) has retired, replaced by a Brit who is now my doctor. What with the global pandemic and all, virtually all appointments are now done over the phone. I have no idea what my new doctor looks like, but am relieved to say that, as I’d hoped, he does have a good sense of humour.

“I see by your records that this has been the reason for your last two visits,” he comments. “Yes,” I reply, “we’re talking because I am an idiot.” “Well,” he says, “that’s not my official diagnosis.” Excellent. In mitigation, I tell him I did actually try to make an appointment the last time, but no one ever got back to me. I can tell he is somewhat underwhelmed. I promise that this time I will get to a dentist. And I will. Antibiotics are prescribed and picked up. The pus ball gets bigger, not smaller. The pain gets worse. A follow up phone call results in a prescription for some serious painkillers and a reminder that there is an emergency dental clinic in Nanaimo. I tell him that is not going to happen.

I check back with the Bad Girls to be reminded of the name of the lovely female dentist. The practice is closed on Fridays and Monday is a bank holiday here, so I’m going to have to wait until Tuesday morning before I can get the ball rolling.

Here’s the thing. It’s not just my dentophobia. It’s the cost. This is my right front tooth we’re talking about. I know what’s going to happen. The tooth is going to have to go. The big question is whether or not enough of it can be salvaged for a crown to be attached. I’m willing to bet the answer is no. So this is going to involve a plate – a fucking costly bloody plate.

I recently came into a small windfall. Not a huge amount, but enough to make me think about possibly buying a new fridge or replacing the kitchen cupboards or extending the deck or getting a new sink for the bathroom – things I simply could not have afforded to consider a few months ago.

Now that money – or a big chunk of it – is going to go on a tooth. For fuck’s sake.

From → Blog

One Comment
  1. krysross permalink

    Sorry, sweetie. That really does suck.

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