JW and I visted the dentist this week, (I had a  filling replaced–no charge, and JW had a new filling for which he had to pay!!)

As we entered the modern and well equipped establishment, I was reminded of the great changes there have been to the dental service over the last 60 years.

When I was at school there was a strong link between the medical services and the schools. We had regular check ups from the dentists, opticians, doctors and school nurses, and anything abnormal was referred to the school clinic which was a large building in the middle of the city. I was only once referred to the dentist in the clinic and it was pretty horrific. They were far too ready, in those days, to extract teeth. I had holes in my back teeth and they decided, in their wisdom,  that as I had little space for wisdom teeth they might as well extract the offending teeth as waste time filling them!  Extractions were done under gas so it was a traumatic experience and coloured my view of dentists for many years. 

My next experience with the dentist was a few years later when I developed a raging toothache during the school holidays. My brother by coincidence had an appointment with a private dentist, which he generously donated to me. He assured me that he was a kindly and efficient man and a very good dentist. I had never been to that dentist so I set out with a vague idea where it was, and then discovered when I was nearly there that I had lost the bit of paper with the name and address, but I remembered which road it was, so proceeded along the road reading nameplates. I soon found the dentist and nervously rang the bell. I was surprised when the door was opened by a very elderly man who told me he was the dentist. I explained about my predicament and asked if I could have Brian’s appointment. He seemed to have difficulty finding the appointment  but motioned me into a rather dingy and ill lit surgery.

I sat in the ancient chair which looked as though it had come from an illustration from Dickens. The dentist decreed that the offending tooth should be removed, so I rather nervously agreed, (anything to get rid of the pain) He pushed, he pulled and we both sweated. He wiped his fevered brow, had a glass of water and began again. After what seemed an age, he finally staggered back, holding the offending molar in his forceps. He gazed at it in wonder and exclaimed, “I have never seen such long roots!” I felt as though my toenails should be attached too, rather weakly thanked him and staggered out.

When I berated my brother about his description he was bewildered and swore that Mr B was just as he had described him, I realised the awful truth, I had gone to the wrong dentist! My chagrin was compounded soon after when my mother read out a piece from the local newspaper about the sudden death of Mr G a local dentist.

Over the years I have been to many dentists, none of them in quite such an antique surgery as that one and progressed over the years from the treadle operated slow drill to the modern high speed drill, from dentists whose first thought was to extract teeth to those who will do their utmost to preserve them and from injections which were almost as painful as the treatment to injections that you hardly notice going in and from dreading a visit to just being slightly apprehensive.

I have been fortunate in keeping most of my teeth, though the wisdom teeth never erupted and neither did two canines (although they are still there in my gums, visible only on xrays)

We found this surgery when we first moved here and it is very modern and has a calm atmosphere. The dentists are all very pleasant and inspire confidence, so I think the “bogeyman” is finally laid.