Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Drowning At The Dentist

You learn something new everyday. Today I learned that you can drown at the dentist.

My dentist is one of those rare creatures, an NSH dentist. He is based in the grounds of a now eerily deserted hospital that is slowly being converted to 'luxury' family homes. Once a bustling mix of health and community service buildings, residential homes, wards, mental health facilities, nurseries and all manner of disparate NHS bits and bobs, set in several acres of tree dotted green fields, the site is now littered with sealed up buildings and groups of yellow helmeted surveyors measuring up the space for development. Here and there the odd service survives; the wheelchair service occupies a building and my dentist another. The dental surgery was once part of a complex that included a GP surgery and a physiotherapy department, but they have been relocated and so the dentist and his assistant occupy a huge building all by themselves. This will be my last visit to the site before the practice moves to another location and the echoing building is razed to the ground to make way for 2 or 3 bedroom executive residences.

When I arrived the waiting room was empty so I was denied the chance to read three year old magazines and was instead ushered straight in. I positioned myself adjacent to the dentist's chair and tilted my wheelchair back. The dentist, an Asian gentleman with reassuringly spectacular white teeth, positioned the light and said, “let's have a look.” A few minutes of probing later and he declared that all was well apart from a little tartar that he would now remove.

Armed with the dental equivalent of a pressure hose he proceeded to blast the offending calculus from my teeth while his assistant wielded a mini vacuum cleaner to suck away the debris and excess water. And therein lay the problem. Suck as she might, water trickled to the back of my throat as I lay back in my chair. Whereas normally I would have swallowed the excess water I found that in my prone position I couldn't. And when I breathed I found that I was breathing in the water. Not wanting to make a fuss I endured this for as long as I could, before having a coughing fit and shaking the various implements from my overflowing mouth.

We tried again but it was no good. Each time I ended up coughing and gagging on water, being looked down upon by an anxious dentist. Eventually we resorted to old fashioned scraping. Slightly more painful but better than drowning. Less embarrassing too.