To Pu Di,
for whose woe this was meant solace.
Having a dental problem can be such a gas!
I got it all of a sudden. It was alright at first, nothing more than an itchy throat. Something you get every now and then, you know, just another passing spell of dry, itchy throat trouble. Of course, eating and drinking became difficult and the phone was given a break, but it was alright more or less. Just the usual throat trouble. Nothing to worry about.
That was when my gums started inflating.
Inflating, yes, inflating – that’s pretty much the word. Today they’re alright and I go to sleep a human; the next morning I wake up a primate of some sort with gums all over my teeth. Everything before that had been child’s play. That was when my troubles really started.
Seriously, you can’t eat, you can’t drink, you can’t do anything at all, just wallow about in silent misery. Every drop of water, each and every morsel of food, the smallest, simplest word, all of these became herculean as the throat dried up and the gums swelled to the size of raisins, effectively rendering eating, drinking and speaking, tasks essential to human survival and society, impossible. You can’t but think of old Coleridge in spots like this, so much to eat, so much to drink and ever so much to speak, but absolutely naught to be done. Quite absurdly existential if you know what I mean, so much to do yet nothing to be had, nothing to be done...
Except bleed. Oh yes, didn’t I say there was blood involved? There was.
Lots. The slightest pressure and the gums would start leaking like a sponge. This meant that every bite of food, every drop of drink was laced for days on end with blood – and not just healthy, clean blood, but stale, sickly blood. In mornings, I would wake up to find my mouth full of blood, my teeth stained with infected fluid that had leaked during the night. I’d brush and in no time toothpaste would turn a ghastly yellow-red. At times the dams would burst just while talking so that slowly my lips would turn red and the onlookers balk at the sight. Vampiric? More like having periods rather, in this case up in the mouth.
Of course there was medication. And, of course, there was the dentist.
That wasn’t too bad though. The experience, still, was something. We waited, the mater and I, as Tendulkar missed his century by the proverbial whisker. It was my first serious visit to the dentist and my head was full of countless stories and anecdotes of the masked torture that’s extracted behind the genteel veneer of a respectable dental establishment. The man came in after a while, extracted from his own chair at home by the call to duty. I was ushered into the chair and as the mater took charge and put some chips on the block, I took a look at the habitat. Clean, yes, and what with the zillion models of jaws and teeth of all sorts somewhat grotesque too. The chair itself was an assortment of countless this and that, a basin here, a lamp there and all sorts of shiny, pointy things tucked away neatly on and in handy slots and trays. It was just as soon as I was done taking it all in that he prodded me back on the chair and, asking me to open my mouth wide, took one of these little devils and put it in before I could resist.
Bang it went, straight on to my poor gums with a vengeance. Burst they went, leaking blood in a free fall.
Not too bad, I agree. I’d expected worse and I got off easy, but it was something. The dentist’s trade is like that, I suppose: a profession where the unexpected is to be expected but never really is, there being such a range of horrors to expect. You expect a clean-up, you get a root canal. That’s how dentistry works, I suppose. I had expected all sorts of horrors, all sorts of unimaginable manoeuvres in my oral cavity; I got off with a minor shock and some blood loss. Not too bad, not too bad...
Except that the next time I went there he warned my gums would have to be cut.
Needless to say I never went back. Such is the will of man, he’ll nurse himself out of all ill health and sickness and be fighting fit in due course of time. Of course, supposedly I’m on a sensitive toothbrush routine for life now, but all said and done the gum is out of the gums and all is back to normal.