I do not do dentists.
Whichever meaning you deduce from this statement, is your business. It will be true either way. I do not do dentists.
I’m lucky like that. My teeth sit pretty like little girls in their Sunday outfits. A huge wonder this one. Considering, I spent a good part of my childhood either open-mouthed and red-eyed in a dentist’s chair or wide-eyed and tight-lipped with sugar on my face and feeble denial in my muted voice.
Oh, the scolding I received on this one count! The threats!
“Your teeth will rot.”
“Your teeth will fall out.”
And my (dad’s) favorite “When you become diabetic, I won’t take you to hospital.”
Any sane child would have retreated with their tail you know where!
Not me though. I’m not saying I was insane. Really, I’m not. It’s just that the threat of diabetes seemed so far off. Threatening me with diabetes was like singing about the ogre on the moon. He might wake up one day and gobble me up. But why lose sleep over that? As for my teeth falling out? Of course, I didn’t want that. But the sugar – the sugar was so irresistible! One look and I forgot.
But if we’re going to apportion blame, I’d start with the makers of the sugar – why did they have to go and make it so sweet if they didn’t want little teeth crunching it?
Next, I’d take on the buyers of the sugar. For as long as I can remember, there was always an open sack of sugar somewhere in our home. A sack! I knew it was there. They knew it was there. They put it there for Chrissakes! Now, I know it was all about economics – the old ‘it’s cheaper to buy more’ belief. Which by the way, I subscribe to, now that I’m older and wiser. Of course, the theory works better if the bulk purchases are consumed responsibly. Keywords – consumed responsibly. Two words I didn’t really understand at seven. So, I’d sidle by the sack, pretending to ignore its sensual whistles with a poker face. But when no one was looking, I’d reach out with my little hands and retrieve a fistful of the stuff. I was in no hurry to get caught, so I’d crush the stuff hurriedly between my teeth.
I don’t need to tell you how this story ends. But I will. It ends with me sitting wide-eyed and tight-lipped with sugar on my face and feeble denial in my muted voice or open-mouthed and red-eyed in a dentist’s chair. Take it from me, there was nothing muted in the screams in scenario two.
Fast forward to years later. I’m all grown. I’m all shacked up with Responsibility and her twin brother Consequence. I do not lick sugar. Matter of fact, I take my tea sugarless. It doesn’t stop at sugar. Hint: if you’re looking to seduce me, chocolate is the sure-fire way not to do it.
So imagine my shock when one night three years ago, I suddenly got hit by a toothache the size of Kilimanjaro. Now, there are many things you can ignore, a toothache is not one of them. Morning could not have arrived slower if it was a slug dragging a dead horse. When finally it arrived, the glow of the golden sun heralded three more hours before the earliest dentist sauntered to work – damn dentist, acting as if I had all day!
Anyway, she examined my teeth. Took her all of 3 minutes to identify the problem. My gum was inflamed. Apparently, my wisdom molar – you know the flat little sucker at the farthest part of your jaw? Yeah. Mine was stuck inside the gum. Apparently, my jaw was too small for the molar to be accommodated, and the wayward tooth was causing an infection. It had to be extracted, but the infection had to be treated first. So, I lapped up every painkiller, every antibiotic she prescribed. Two weeks later, I was back for the procedure. She called it, a Surgical disimpaction.
Now for the fun part…
For forty-five minutes, I sat in an inverted chair with my legs splayed in the air, and my head propped mercilessly under the grip of the dentist. For forty-five minutes, (I know because, there was a clock right above my face, and it ticked with the speed of the aforementioned slug and its deadweight horse!) I sat there with my mouth wide open, while the left side of my lower gum was cut open and my entire body shook from the sound of what felt like a chainsaw. She drilled and drilled and I just kept my unblinking eyes on the clock. Every so often, my mouth filled up with blood and she’d yell ‘SUCTION’ to the other nice lady in the room.
Finally, she pulled out the tooth. I have to say, it looked really small, considering all the trouble it had caused. Then she stitched up my gum. Six stitches. Let me tell you something, when people say “Yeah, he got six stitches.” They don’t really know what they are talking about unless they’ve had six stitches put on them.
Now for the fun-ner part…
I stumbled out of the dentist’s office and found my way to my waiting cab. The anesthetic was wearing off, and my jaw was clamping shut. I had to pry my lips open with the fingers of my left hand, just so I could push a little tablet inside. Taking a sip of water was a whole other expedition. Swallowing was like hitting the back of my throat with a mallet.
The. Pain. Was. Intense.
I had to take three types of painkillers, all containing diclofenac.
Yet I still had to make one stop. The bank. The Same one where I nearly got arrested for nearly possessing fake currency. You remember that, right?
I needed to make an over-the-counter transaction and I knew it would not get done for another seven days if I didn’t do it that afternoon. But I didn’t have seven days.Why didn’t I do it before the Disimpaction impacted my life? I don’t know. Let’s blame it on Stupid. You know that guy, right?
So I get into the bank and await my turn.
My gum is bleeding. My mouth is filling up FAST! So every few seconds, I have to decide whether to brave the pain of swallowing or brave the pain of spitting into my wad of tissue. Now, one minor detail. It was the season of the dreaded Ebola. If anyone caught wind of the fact that I was bleeding from my mouth, I would have been carted to Kenyatta’s quarantine ward faster than I could say “Not Ebola!” Now if they took me to Kenyatta hospital, without my painkillers which were sitting pretty in the cab…this thought I could not bring myself to finish. I swallowed the blood. Kept swallowing until I finally got out of the banking hall.
Now for the Fun-ner Fun-ner part…
I had to do it all again in three months. I had to sit through forty-five more minutes, plus days of prying my lips open to pop a pill while taking wheetabix through a big straw. The right side of my jaw had to go through the same amount of trauma.
When it was all over, the dentist asked if I wanted to keep my extracted wisdom teeth. My response?
“No Ma’am. I think I’m a lot wiser without them.”