‘Now, I would advise you to go home and to sleep for as long as possible. Take some paracetamol and try to go to sleep, it will be the best way to deal with the pain.’
Feeling that I had been punched repeatedly in both sides of the face, I went to the reception.
The smiling young woman looked up. ‘Now for the painful part,’ she said, ‘for today it will be €1600.’
I took out my debit card. ‘And for the next part it will be €1800?’
‘It will. How did you know?’
‘I checked before agreeing to go ahead with it.’
The dentist had been baffled at my decision. ‘Sir, to have four crowns at one time is unusual. Why didn’t you space them out? There would have been less pain.’
‘Apprehension,’ I said. ‘I could not have coped with going through the apprehensive feelings four times.’
The dentist, a Trinity College educated Shia Muslim from Iraq, is one of the most polite people I have ever met. An Irish dentist would probably have told me not to be such a fecking eejit. My dentist just looked at me quizzically and smiled.
I felt I owed him some explanation. He had not asked any question regarding my cryptic remark.
‘When I was a child, I had to go to a dentist who took out four of my teeth. He used gas which made me vomit for hours afterwards. All I can remember is the blood and the nausea.’
‘Nitrous oxide,’ he said.
‘Isn’t that laughing gas?’ I asked. ‘It wasn’t very funny.’
‘No.’ he said.
I was going to continue with the story of a former neighbour whose mother had died in a dentist’s chair. A story I heard in adulthood which only added to the lingering fears from childhood.
It would have been discourteous to have told the story. Dental medicine has advanced immeasurably since then.
The dentist continued his tidying in silence, as if pondering how one could counter irrational fear.
The next visit, the one that will cost €1800, will be in a month or so. Four gold crowns will replace the four temporary crowns that were fitted today.
There was the option of something cheaper.
‘Which will last the longest?’ I had asked at the time of the check up which led to today’s three hours in the dentist’s chair.
‘Well, the gold obviously.’
‘Good,’ I said. ‘We’ll go for that. My family are long-lived so I want something that will see me out.’ (I did not add was what really mattered was coming to the dentist as seldom as possible).