My dentist looks like Eugene Levy. For some reason, this does not fill me with confidence.
Anyway, Eugene takes a look inside my mouth, and declares that the tooth (the one he filled four years ago) has decayed. I have a choice. He can re-cap the rotting stub, which will only be a temporary fix, or we can go for extraction. Extraction doesn’t sound too bad – I’ve had it done before, and it’s a less painful option than you might expect. He injects a local anesthetic, and I retire to the waiting room for the effects to kick in.
15 minutes later I’m back in the chair. Eugene prods and probes, declares the rest of my teeth to be fighting fit, then begins to dig and delve. He applies something that feels like a cross between a screwdriver and a clamp to the tooth, and begins to wriggle. Nothing. After five or ten minutes of this process, every crack and wrench and tug and grind amplified in my skull, he reaches for a drill. I think (it’s difficult to tell what’s going on) he uses this to break up the tooth. Either way, I catch a glimpse of something small and blood-covered being whisked from my jaws, and a tell-tale tinkle as it drops into a receptacle.
Success? Not yet. Eugene tells me that he’s managed to get two-thirds of the tooth extracted, but one prong remains. Normally, he tells me, this is a two minute job. Normally it doesn’t take anything like this long, he says. Eugene fires some more anesthetic into my jaw.
After further grinding and crunching and scraping and pulling, the root is still holding firm. Eugene looks at me and tells me that he could have sent me to hospital for this extraction, but I’d be faced with a 14-month waiting list. He says this as if he’s doing me a favour. It really doesn’t feel like he is.
Eugene decides we need to X-Ray the remnants. With this done, I retire to the waiting room one more time.
Another 20 minutes later, I’m back in the chair, and it’s obvious that Eugene is beginning to struggle. With one hand he’s gripping my chin so hard it hurts, while with the other he applies every ounce of force he can to levering what’s left of this obstinate molar from its home.
And then he admits defeat. Eugene shows me the tiny X-Ray printout and tells me that the decayed root has “fused” itself to the bone in my jaw. He can send me to hospital to get this (and the surrounding bone) chiselled out, or we can let it heal as it is, the root remaining planted in my skull. As the tooth hasn’t been causing me pain, he thinks this is the best option. At the moment, I’m too dazed to argue. Besides, he’s the dentist; he knows what he’s doing, right?
His assistant hands me a mirror and a cloth to clean myself up. My cheeks are swollen up, the corner of my mouth is actually grazed where his tools have been angled in for optimum attack, and my chin is flecked with blood.
It’s nearly two hours since I first sat in the chair, part of the tooth remains embedded in my mouth, and Eugene’s bill has doubled in price since his original quote – due mainly, I guess, to all that extra work he put in failing to remove the damn thing. I get a prescription (the non-alcohol-friendly variety of antibiotic), some cotton-wool swabs in case of further bleeding, and am advised to book an appointment with the hygienist.
I’ll be easy to spot this Christmas. I’ll be the one eating mashed potato and angel delight. And sipping mineral water.