PC 64 Molars and, er, Wisdom?

My recent encounter with a dentist away from his treatment room (PC 62) started another train of thought. Just what is your relationship with your dentist? One to be put up with, an acceptance of a necessity, or one you would prefer not to think about? After two close encounters recently with chums who are undergoing ‘dental work’, but not really wanting to know too much detail, I saw an old man on the bus the other day who had clearly given up going to a dentist – absolutely no front teeth, top or bottom, and what teeth there were, were stained by tobacco or too much coffee. Could I dare to scribble about our teeth? Worth a try!


We do not want this sort of decay!

First the details, in case you’ve forgotten? Children have 20 deciduous teeth which they lose after some 10 years. A normal adult mouth contains 32; 8 incisors, 4 canines, 8 premolars and 12 molars. The latter include 4 wisdom teeth; they are the last to appear right at the back of the mouth, by which time you are supposed to have gained some degree of wisdom – personally I’m not sure about this!

I lost one of my baby teeth on a sailing trip on the west coast of Scotland in 1956. I fondly remember the feel of the coin under my damp pillow in the wet berth, for in the UK we have this tradition of placing a coin under the pillow when a child loses one of their baby teeth. It used to be an old sixpence, but I’m sure inflation has increased the coin’s value. I learned later that the yacht had been in danger of capsizing – but that detail is hidden in my psyche!

One’s tongue is a funny part of one’s body, very sensitive, strange-looking, and indicative of good health. But when you have a loose tooth, you use your tongue to ….. lick the tooth, to tease it, rock it in and around in its socket, push it so it almost comes out ….. just a little more!! What a delicious feeling!

Growing up in 1950’s Britain, sugar, which had been rationed during World War Two, was more available, but only just! I am old enough to remember Ration Cards that allowed me to buy sweets from Mr Sugden’s newsagents in Margaret’s Buildings, a small pedestrianised shopping street around the corner from The Royal Crescent in Bath where I lived. Four Black Jacks cost one penny (in old decimal currency a two hundred and fortieth of a pound). I think I indulged my love of sweets too much, trading other’s sweet ration for chores; that and an oft-quoted ‘we all have soft teeth in the family’ and visits to the dentist became a regular feature of my life. If you have ‘soft’ teeth you should not eat Winegums or toffees, especially caramel, but they’re my favourites!! (Oh! And dark chocolate-covered Brazil nuts ….. and Cadbury’s Chocolate whole nut and …….)

I haven’t talked about this nightmare before, so forgive me if I get a little emotional! Mr Sharp, my dentist, had a practice in one of the honey-coloured Bath stone buildings in The Circus, a circle of large, tall, terraced houses with a stand of enormous trees in the centre. As a schoolboy, wearing shorts and long socks, I would ring the well-polished brass bell by the large front door, and step into a stone-flagged hallway. Mr Sharp’s surgery was on the first floor ….. and he stood hands on hips at the top of the stairs, with the light from the surgery behind him. He looked threatening and I climbed those stairs with huge reluctance, wishing that I could have been transported away, anywhere actually; “Beam me up Scottie?”

Hello, Richard!” His cold clammy hand did nothing to lighten my mood. “Come on in.” The chair of course becomes your prison, its back the wall. If I had an injection, it always seemed to me that the numbness was at its most effective just as I stepped out of the chair at the end of the appointment. In those days I think the drill was a cable & foot-pedal affair; it might have been driven by electricity but the fluctuation in its speed suggested otherwise. When that drill bit made contact with a tooth, it made me sympathise with concrete when a workman starts digging it up with a hydraulic jackhammer. You couldn’t talk as you were like a hamster, with bits of cotton wool stuck in both cheeks. The suction device that was meant to take away the saliva was never quite in the right place but you couldn’t move it as your hands were gripping the armrests of the chair so tightly. Oh! How I hated going to see Mr Sharp!

In common with many children I managed to come off my bicycle, in this case crashing into my brother, and chewed the tarmac. This hastened the loss of the front teeth – and reminded me of that song “All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth.” There was a small gap between my two top teeth which aided my ability to play the trumpet in the school orchestra. My passion for sweets created cavities in my teeth, much like the hole at the core of the Chernobyl Nuclear reactor that needed a concrete cap, although the covering in my case was made of a nicer material. Most of the work was done by an Army dentist and I spent so much time in his chair that we became good friends! Those crowns remain in good shape, such was the quality of his work. I am still in touch with his wife who, forty years later, lives in Hastings.

Other memories of the dentist cover a broken crown that I glued back temporarily with super glue (the dentist was not amused!); failing asleep in the chair; and a root canal that required a second mortgage to finance.

But I have had sufficient money to get the treatment when and where it’s been needed. Woe betide those who don’t. (To be continued …….)
Richard 20th March 2016                                                         richardyates24@gmail.com


2 thoughts on “PC 64 Molars and, er, Wisdom?

  1. Enjoyed this one… Could get my teeth into it…I had all my four wisdom teeth out on my 18th Birthday. That was strange. The dentist and I are still friends due to a mutual love of jazz, and his two sons remain friends. I had a music writing collaborator who was previously a dentist …. He hated the job. Saying people never liked dentists , being prodded around Don’t think he wrote any hits either….. But nor did I G

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. I have memories of visits to the orthodontist following the repeated breaking of my brace. That feeling of guilt knowing that you shouldn’t have had that Apple or (much more likely) that toffee! “I’m not sure how it happened ……… Perhaps I brushed too hard” good PC Richard.


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