Tuesday Angus and I took a painful, honest step forward. Embracing our fears and with a quiet lump in our throats, we admitted it was time to make a foray into a frightening area. Laughing nervously, we got our coats on and tried to keep up the chatter and small talk as we faced the distress together. I wanted to hold his hand to try to bite back the bitter panic, but I didn't want to seem needy or desperate, much like I always do. In solidarity, we would try to take this next move and survive both as a couple and as individuals.
We went to the dentist.
It had to be done. I hadn't been in a year, and neither had Angus. And unlike Angus, I've had a terrible toothache in one of my bottom molars which lead me to horrible fears that should I not book an appointment to get the cavity filled people would take a look at my gaping blackened smile and point, sniggering and say: If only she'd bothered to floss. And we're talking about flossing her teeth, not the other area. To which I'd say: Bite me. Flossing is boring. And you can never take away my thong.
England has a similar system to dentists that Sweden did, in that you can join dentists on the public health care system (which is called the NHS here in England). The problem is, most dentists are full up with NHS patients (for which they don't get paid very much money) and so insist on only taking new patients privately. This costs an arm and a leg, and to be honest, who wants to blow their dough on the dentist when you could be doing things like going on holiday? Not to mention that if you do find a dentist who can take you on, they can't see you until October 29, 2008, from 7:45-7:48 am. And this time is not negotiable.
In order to find a dentist in England that will take you on NHS you have to do one or more of the following:
1) Promise your first-born child to be trained as a London bus driver when he/she grows up.
2) Sing "Rule Britannia" 20 times while standing naked in the middle of Picadilly Circus while hopping on one leg and wearing leg warmers over your ears.
3) Wait until there is a complete planetary alignment, and if Lara Croft has taught us anything, it's that such an event only happens once every one thousand years. Well, that and that silicon can be injected almost anywhere.
4) Hover around the offices for planning permission to find out when the next dentist office is being built, and then kill people in the queue ahead of you to get your name on the list first.
Since Picadilly is already heaving with people trying to get their names on lists, I decided my best option was to go about this two ways: to Google until I found a nearby office still accepting NHS patients, and once I did, to try to charm our way into the patient load. So the second to the last week of December, I did just that.
Imagine my surprise when I found a dentist's office had recently opened just down the road. And they were still taking NHS patients. And I was able to get through the first time I rang them.
"Blah Blah Blah Dentist's Office." said a female voice on the phone. I could tell from her accent she was Australian.
"Yes, hi." I said. For some reason this is my standard greeting to office staff. I have to say the yes. I will never understand why. "Are you still taking NHS patients? My partner and I live nearby and we need to book a dentist appointment."
"We're pretty booked right now." slangs the Aussie. "We can't take you until...." and here I flip my diary open to 2009, fearing the worst. "January 4, 2005 at 12:30." says the receptionist, with a tone anticipating an outrageous reaction from me.
"Excellent!" I crow. "We'll take it!"
Aussie seems taken aback that we are so willing to be satisfied. "Really?" she asks, surprised.
"We're easy to please." I reply.
We book the appointment, and with dread, we go. When we get there, we find it's a massive house in a nearby neighborhood that has been converted to a dentist's office, and judging by the names on the plaque outside, all of the dentists are foreign. And when we get inside, we find that nearly all the staff is foreign.
I could fit in here.
There is a huge squealing sound emanating from upstairs, of tools being used on something hard and resistant. A sound of torque pervades the hallway, followed by a hammering and thumping sound. Then the sound of intense drilling. I look around. "Now that guy has a tarter control problem." I breeze. "I'm really not happy going to a dentist who's tools say 'Black and Decker' on them." One of the receptionists laughs.
Aussie looks at me. "We're renovating." she says bluntly.
10 out of 10 for the bleeding obvious, honey, I think.
We are handed pages of documents to fill out, documents which look old and which I suspect were reproduced via mimeograph, which I think is cute and quaint and makes me want to sniff the pages. One of the items that we have to check yes/no to is the question: I want to be sedated.
Stopping myself from singing the words to the 80's song and doing a Snoopy style shoulder dance there in the reception, I ask the Aussie.
"I want to be sedated?" I ask, and there is a hint of that melody in the way I ask it. "What does that mean? Like, if I'm having a rough day I can pop by here? That I can opt to be knocked out if I feel a little insecure?"
She just stares at me. "It's for treatment. If you want sedation."
Right, I think, looking at her. You are only the second Australian I have ever met who has had a humor bypass, the first being a guy with an action hero name and a beer gut the size of Montenegro.
I check yes. Why say no to sedation? Besides that, no one is getting near my teeth without anesthetic first. I was offered that in Sweden-did I want my cavity filled with anesthetic, which will cost more? Hmmm....let me think about that. Does the pope have a balcony?
We are led to the waiting room where there are numerous magazines draped around chairs, all happily from 2004 but a disturbing number of them are dive magazines with enormous Great White Sharks jumping up on the cover, rows of fish-filled triangular teeth aiming for the headlines of the glossies. A disturbing vision of the orthodontic possibilites behind Door Number 2, really.
The dentist comes out to get me first. Long black hair, big eyes, and a cute South African accent, she puts me at ease smiling and telling jokes. She asks me how often I brush my teeth, etc., and I find myself striving to prove I am a worthy dental patient. I always do this. It's like I am still expecting a gold star to be stuck onto my sweater for good oral hygiene, as opposed to just good oral.
She looks at my form.
"You want sedation?" she asks.
I usually ask that people buy me dinner first, but yeah. I'm game. "If you have a caivty or something, then yes. I do want anesthetic." I reply. "I'm a bit of a chicken. I won't pass out or anything. But I don't want to feel you drilling. Not that you'll need to. I have good dental hygiene."
God. I just said the words "dental hygiene". I have had a brain transplant and I am now Strawberry Shortcake.
"Oh that's different. Sedation means we use gas to knock you out. Of course you'll get anesthetic." she says kindly.
"That's good. " I reply. "But do sedate me if you need to take out all my teeth or something. I mean, in case it all goes horribly wrong. But it won't as I take good care of my teeth. I swear." Shut up, shut up, shut up you absolute fucking moron.
She starts poking and prodding at my teeth. "Do you floss?" she asks.
I hesitate. Do I lie and tell her daily, or do I tell her the truth, which is that I floss if I have to dress up fancy and look nice or if I have a popcorn husk caught in my teeth, whichever comes first? "Not really." I reply. "Sorry. I know I should do it daily."
She laughs and leans forward. "Let me tell you something." she says in that gorgeous South African accent of hers. "Not even dentists floss daily. It's too boring."
"In fact," she continues, snapping on rubber gloves. "I eat sweets. Constantly. But don't tell anyone."
I love her. I briefly debate going gay for her, but then realize that perhaps that's an ianppropriate response of gratitude. Overkill and all that. Besides, she's into sweets, not beaver.
She takes X-rays using those bite wing things designed by a sado-masichist who gets off on damaging pink gums and laughing at the drooling trolls it turns us into. She leaves the room as my face gets exposed to a splash of X-ray, and when she returns she pulls the bite wings from my mouth, leaving a trail of saliva from my mouth to the trash can so long that Hansel and Gretel could have used it to find their way home. I am horrified my cool dentist will think me a dribbling idiot, but she laughs again.
"You should see me!" she giggles. "Fountains of saliva!"
This is the coolest dentist ever. I never want to go to another dentist again, no matter where I will be living, I will drive to see this chick. This is the Uber-Dentist.
In the end, Angus and I wearily finish up our appointment. As NHS patients, we pay a grand total of £30 for the X-rays and the check-up. But we don't get off that easy-I do indeed have a cavity, and Angus needs 4 of his older fillings replaced. We get to go back next week for dental work, and this time it will be out of pocket, as this dentist uses the new white enamel fillings to replace the old silver mercury ones. The silver ones are covered by NHS. The white ones aren't.
It sucks to have to pay for non-fun things.
PS-I watched the first episode of Desperate Housewives last night as it's come to England now. Oh yeah. I'm hooked.Posted by Everydaystranger at January 6, 2005 09:37 AM .
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