No one likes visiting the dentist. I’m fortunate that Mr Anand is a very nice chap with good sense of humour, and an excellent dentist. Even so I’d have preferred not to have made six visits in the last five weeks.

I suspect it goes back to the standard of dentistry and dental education in my 1960s childhood and that teeth filled then have always been vulnerable. My parents took me to their dentist, Mr Blaney, widely known locally as Butcher Blaney. His stark surgery, grinding drill and gruff chairside manner were understandably scary to a young child. Like too many dentists he seemed to delight in waving the syringe in front of the patient, so they could see exactly how long that needle is. I wasn’t an easy patient. On one occasion I threatened to get him with my chemistry set. After that he refused to treat me.

At school we had a yearly visit from a dentist and following one of these my parents received a letter saying that treatment was required. An appointment was made at the local clinic with Mr Wight the school dentist. What a nice chap he was. For several years he kept my teeth in order but then he left. His successor was a small but formidable lady, who scared the children. She soon left and rumour had it that the dental nurse, a lovely lady who knew everyone, had a part in it. Mr Wright came back but on leaving school I was no longer eligible to attend his surgery.

After trying a couple of dentists near to my work, neither of whom inspired confidence, I signed up with Mr Hall in Romford. What a lovely chap he was too. He kept everything pretty much in order, other than a failed attempt at root canal treatment when the tooth had to go. When the adjacent tooth needed the same treatment he suggested a specialist, his referral letter describing the ‘spectacular failure’ of treatment in its neighbour.

Then one day Mr Hall told me the news I’d been dreading. He was to retire. He was the only dentist I really trusted and was gentle (well as gentle as one can be when armed with needles, drills and pliers). He had told me there was no excuse for dentists not to be. I wonder if he ever met Mr Blaney? He had great confidence in Mr Anand, his successor and assured me that I’d be in good hands.

Fortunately Mr Hall was right and Mr Anand has now cared for my teeth for more than ten years. I visit every 6 months or so, occasionally he finds a hole or a filling to replace, but we’ve had no major dramas. He always tell me that my teeth are very clean so I feel like I’ve been a good boy. My check up in February was fine and it was the usual ‘see you in 6 months’. Then it all started to go wrong.

A year or so ago Mr Anand did an x-ray and said that the tooth that the specialist had dealt with was resting in very little bone and would soon fall out. Apparently root canal doesn’t last for ever. At the check up I proudly showed him it was still there but was told its days were numbered.

They were indeed. The next week it started to hurt. I went back for antibiotics but before they took effect the tooth started to wobble. A strange feeling that I hadn’t had since baby teeth many years ago. So back to Mr Anand. It would have to come out. Out came the pliers and with a quick pull so did the tooth. But that wasn’t all. This was only the tooth. The root was still to come. More injections, much tugging and twisting with the pliers, quite a lot of pain and eventually it was all out. See you in six months.

Alas it was not to be. A few days later I was eating a Kit Kat and became aware of something hard in my mouth. A tooth had broken. Back to Mr Anand. Apparently Kit Kats from the fridge are quite hard so it wasn’t a surprise. The tooth was heavily filled and the filling would have to come out to be replaced. Those dreaded words ‘book a 45 minute appointment’. A temporary filling in place I did as asked and booked to return in two weeks.

Two weeks though was a long time to wait to see my mate Mr Anand but not to worry, another problem arose. A sharp piece of bone had appeared in my gum where the extraction had been. Mr Anand had looked at it the week before, said it was not unusual. He could numb it up and remove it but it would sort itself out in time. With a choice of needle or nothing, I obviously decided to wait. But now it was rubbing on my tongue and hurting. Back to Mr Anand. This was an appointment I wasn’t looking forward to. I feared it would give him an opportunity to use some of those strange but sharp looking tools that sit around the surgery waiting for unusual cases. I sat in the chair with trepidation. A minute later it was done. Simply pulled out with tweezers and no pain. Phew. But I’d be back next week.

Today was the 45 minute appointment. We greeted like friends. I told Mr Anand about Butcher Blaney and the chemistry set. I didn’t let on that I now have three whole labs of equipment that might be turned on any medical professional who pained me. I’d once asked Mr Anand why anyone would want to be a dentist. He replied that he sometimes wondered that too! Today though he told me how much he enjoyed the job and how rewarding it was. He would get the chance to use a full array of tools today. The 45 minute job was done in 25. See you in 6 months. Three hours later the numbness is subsiding and much as I like to see Mr Anand I hope it will really be six months before we meet again.

Next time I could perhaps do as the lady in a story told by the much missed cricket commentator Brian Johnston. As she sat down in the chair the lady grasped a delicate part of the dentist’s anatomy. ‘Excuse me madam, you’re holding my testicles’ exclaimed the dentist. ‘I know’ replied the lady ‘we’re not going to hurt each other are we?’

Peter Caton 19/3/19