I hadn’t been to a dentist in 20 years. I wasn’t scared, I just didn’t see the point. As long as my teeth were still strong enough to chew my food I was happy. I’m sure that there are a lot of people out there right now that are just like me. To them, teeth are practical things and decay is pretty inevitable. When they finally go, you get a set of dentures and away you go.
I wasn’t always like that. When I was a kid, my parents took me to a big London dental clinic every year and I would always beam at the dentist, my mouth full of pearly white teeth. I brushed diligently and when I was 11 I got an electric toothbrush. I felt so grown up! As the years went by though, I stopped going to see Mr Price and my teeth seemed less and less important. I had bigger things to worry about: school, football, girls! It just didn’t seem to matter any more. Eventually my gums started to bleed whenever I brushed too hard, and my teeth were still looking pretty yellow afterwards so I just gave up. My days of waiting nervously in the dental clinic were over and I was free to eat as many sweets as I wanted.
Amazingly, I didn’t lose a single tooth. I was lucky I suppose, because with the sheer lack of care I was showing, I should have been little more than gums after a decade. My hand was forced when I was woken up in the middle of the night by the most awful, searing pain reverberating throughout my jaw. I would later find out that a molar in the lower left side of my mouth had become infected and swollen. At that moment, all I knew was that I was in trouble. It was unlike any other pain. I could feel every pulse of pain tremble down my jaw. It made me feel weak and dizzy and helpless.
I had a choice, I could either call the dental clinic or suffer in silence. For a few hours, I suffered. I was ashamed of what I had done, the state I had let myself get in to. I was worried that some of the staff might recognise me from my childhood and wonder what had happened to that sweet, smiling little boy. In the end, I swallowed my pride and called the dentist.
A few hours later, the throbbing had stopped, replaced by a dull ache. It still hurt, but it was fading steadily. When I had needed help, the clinic had welcomed me back without judgement. All they cared about was my health. If anything, they were glad that I was making the right choice and starting to look after myself again.
Looking back on it now, I’m actually glad that it happened. That might seem a little odd, given how painful it was, but I’m lucky that my tooth got infected: in the end it gave me a chance to ask for help and change my life for the better.
It’s Worth Taking the Time to go to the Dental Clinic