Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Truth About A Tooth

Something strange has been happening to my teeth over the last few years.  That's what I like to believe.  But my dentist in Delhi put it more pragmatically and somewhat bluntly.  "You're brushing too hard," he said, while filling the upteenth little cavity.  "Too much wrist pressure."  Made me feel like a pugilist.  I explained that I used the softest possible brush in the gentlest way, but he brushed it aside.  "Maybe your teeth are just softer than usual.  Buy an electric toothbrush.  And I'll wait for the remaining surfaces to erode further before I do anything more."

And that was that.  Except that electric toothbrushes are not so easy to come by.  Anyway, I returned to Bangalore and was getting back to my routine when I began to experience an occasional twinge. I felt I could do nothing about it except wait for those holes to enlarge or heal- I decided to begin with positive visualization (yes!  I am convinced that if I love my teeth enough, they may get well...) and chewing a clove or two.

This morning the pain was more than a twinge, in fact it filled my mental horizon and began to interfere with my yoga practice.  "I release all past problems and pains," I told myself and immediately a swarm of horrible images flooded my mind, which I tried to release immediately.  The pain continued.  Then it hit me- an idea I mean.  We only retain a selective fraction of the past that incorporates itself into our present.  I have never been able to (nor have I seen anyone else) go  into the past and release all the pain that is associated with memories.  But if I focus on removing negativity in the present, that includes the past I'm carrying forward, and that might be more effective.  I tried this and, almost immediately, the pain receded.

This (being real life) is of course, not the end of the story.  After a hearty breakfast (doing a full set of yoga after a long time) with yoga-friends, I continued to feel fine.  As soon as I reached home however, while rinsing, I felt something hard in my mouth and looked to see one of my fillings nestling in my gums, far away from the tooth it had originally covered.  Hmmm.  The good news was there was still no pain.  The bad news was- my dentist was 2000 km away.  I recalled that we had once visited an elderly, avuncular dentist whose clinic was not too far away and decided I may as well return to see him.  Fortunately an appointment slot was available immediately and I set off.

The office looked as it had some years ago but it was completely empty.  A lady emerged from one of the rooms, looked at me and yelled something.  A young man immediately entered the reception area.  I presumed he was the receptionist as he had evidently answered my phone call.

"Come this way, " he led me to the dreaded chair with its usual paraphernalia.  I sat down.  No sign of the dentist.  The woman appeared with an anticipatory gleam of excitement in her eyes.  The man approached, gleaming tools in hand.  A dreadful thought filled my mind.
"Where is Dr. Ray?"
"Oh, he's away for ten days.  Gone to attend his niece's wedding in Kolkata," said the young man breezily.  "Ill attend to you."
I sank back apprehensively.
"Where's the cavity?" he asked and I indicated the general area. However he seemed to be looking behind my teeth for some unknown reason.  "The front, the front," I mumbled.
"This?" he tapped a tooth and I almost leapt out of the chair but was held down by the paraphernalia.  I didn't feel the need to reply.
"Just relax, this will be a little sensitive."
When dentists say, "Just relax," they actually mean, "This will be unpleasant but it will be worse if you squirm and yell."
When they say, "This will be a little sensitive," they mean, "It's going to be awful but there's nothing you can do about it."
Having years of experience in interpreting dentist-lingo, I resigned myself to just twitching my feet when the sensitivity was overwhelming.  The lady looked a bit pale but the dentist continued to be chatty.  I hoped he was competent and tried to imagine positive things about him.

After bits of things had been put in, scraped off, pushed firmly and so on, he asked me to rinse and check my teeth.  "You won't even be able to make out which tooth I filled," he said with obvious pride in his handiwork.  I looked.  It was true I couldn't see the filling.  It was just that blood was gently oozing out from the side of one of my teeth.  He made a quick dabbing movement.  "Just a little bleeding because of the polishing," he muttered.
I nodded.  "It's fine."
"You brush too hard," he said.  Back to square one, I thought.  "Buy a power toothbrush.  It' available at any Health and Glow outlet."  My spirits rose.  At last!  The answer to my dreams and prayers!
"Tomorrow," I said firmly and then asked, "Any food restrictions?"
"No, no" his high spirits were uncontainable.   They seemed to rise and fill the entire clinic.  "In fact, it's lunch time.  Pizza Hut is just above us.  You can go there.  And after that you must try Sweet Chariot."
I was momentarily taken aback.  "You shouldn't be saying all this being a dentist!"
He shrugged.  "You gotto eat.  And anyway, you must try Sweet Chariot.  You'll see the cavity isn't sensitive to sugar anymore."
I nodded.  This was as good a way as any of testing my new filling, I thought.  But, I'm afraid my positive resolutions didn't let me.

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