Legends from our own lunchtimes

Thursday, February 05, 2009

I've had a pathological fear of dentists for half a century.

That's how long it's been since my first dental work in the Dental Surgery above the pearl agency on Thursday Island, where the elderly Ceylonese (in the days long before Sri Lanka was again known as Sri Lanka), pearl dealer was also the community dentist. I imagine that he was in fact a qualified dentist, but it didn't seem to matter too much as the old pedal powered drill vibrated an ever increasing hole in whatever tooth it was treating.

In those days the amalgam filling was mixed on the spot with mercury as an admixture, and I'm not sure if anaesthesia was common in dental work, but there was certainly no evidence of it there. If we had been quiet and still during whatever procedure had taken place, the dentist would occasionally give us a little mercury in a matchbox to take home.

It's a fairly well known fact these days that mercury is perhaps not the most people friendly substance known to man, but no one seemed to bother too much about the very likely possibility of it causing any long term damage, and we'd while away a few minutes or more, rubbing it carefully into a penny to turn it silver, in the vain hope that we could pass it off for two bob at the fish shop.

And people get excited about fluoride! If we'd had fluoride in our water instead of a few other miscreant chemicals, there's a very good chance that I would not have spent enough money to buy a small car, to say nothing of enough time to see the movie Australia four times, over the last few weeks, rescuing yet another tooth.

At least now, there's no vibration, no pain, the dentist is young and gentle although she does come from another far off isle. I ascertained that when she told me she was going "beck to New Zilland for a widding".

Instead of clenching my eyes firmly shut (if indeed that's possible) and gripping the arms of the dental chair as though my life depended on it (well there aren't any arms these days), I have happily watched every episode of Seinfeld in Dolby stereo, while a team of expert engineers whizz around trying not to spoil my view.

I've now got my third gold crown (that's one for each of the girls after my demise), and I can only say that I agree with my father at least on one thing.

Those who pine for the "good old days" are sadly disillusioned.

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