Saturday, August 2, 2008

Doctor, My Pain Has Subsidized And Other Tales From The Chair. Vol 2

Dentistry is no laughing matter. Coming to the dentist is often a sombre occasion - there's nothing funny to be found in between a root canal and 3-inch thick tartar, no matter how deep you dig. It's all serious business of pain relief, more efficient chewing, better smiles and greater confidence (well there you have it, my 25 second elevator speech on how I help humanity. How many of you can say the same, ha? ha?? Let's not get into a discussion right now on how many of you actually WANT to say these things, especially the chewing part.... ). But if you think that dentistry makes for a boring day, I am happy to report that the biggest laughs and faux paus come from the patients house entertainment to rival any prime time sitcom. Let me clarify, it's not that I laugh at patients, but what can I do when Mrs. Vaswani tells me that her pain has subsidized! I look at her in earnest and want to ask her how much her pain costs now with the subsidy.

Sometime the fun is in the topic of discussion. For example I spend about thirty minutes explaining to Mr. Reston that teeth move. And for most of that time, he looks at me strangely, a little doubtfully. I can see him wondering if the dentist has been drinking.

What do you mean, he say for the fifth time, looking at me from the corner of his eye.

I try to look as professional as possible as I say this - Well if there is an empty space near a tooth, it will tend to move into that space. Or if I shape a tooth for a crown and the crown is not fixed in time, the tooth can move in any direction and the crown will no longer fit.

He looks increasingly uncomfortable with this information and says, you tellin' me my teeth are moving? Will I'm tellin' you that they're not.

I explain to him that the teeth do not develop legs and start walking. Teeth drift. They drift very slowly. But drifting is moving.

He summarises - So what you're saying is that some day soon my teeth will 'drift' into my gullet or glide into my palate. What a load of bullock.

I look at his red face flushed with the beginning of anger, his stubborn tone, his hair standing on edge and I do the only thing that a self respecting doctor can do when faced with an excessively argumentative patient - I change the topic and ask him if his bad breath problem is solved.

Or take for instance the matter of repairing a broken tooth. Sometimes teeth break in such a way that they cannot be repaired. And the last time I looked, a dentist was not God. Abhay is one of my favourite patients. He's relaxed on the chair (he falls asleep during treatment on a regular basis), he trusts my treatment and judgement and this helps me treat him to the best of my capabilities. Yet, early Monday morning he walks in carefully cradling I piece of tissue in his palm. I know of his long term relationship with a girl and for a second think that he is going to show me some jewellery that he has bought for her. At the back of my mind, a small voice is asking why he would be carrying said piece of jewellery in a tissue in his palm. He unveils the tissue to expose a crown of the non-jewelled kind.

The top of my tooth just cracked off, he says.

I look at it and yes, he has in his hand the entire crown of his molar. I peek into his mouth and see just an empty space where the molar should be. An xray reveals a tooth broken beyond hope. And yet, Abhay is as hopeful as ever.

We can stick it back right, he asks

No we cant, I say.

Can't we just glue it back on, he says. And then for my benefit he adds - Superglue? Fevikwik?? Fevicol??? Kwikfix???? I wonder at his familiarity with various glue materials.

This is not a cocktail stirrer. It cannot be 'glued' back, I say.

How about if we keep it in place with a rubber band which bands it to the next tooth, he asks.

Wont work, I tell him honestly.

Ok, he says, what about if we drill a hole in the root and screwed this top back onto the root, he asks.

It's not like a screw on your washing machine fell off, I tell him, feeling the need to put things into perspective.

But perseverance is Abhay's middle name.

The last thing he said to me before we both burst out laughing is - Lets take the root out too. Then we can weld the crown back to the root and it can be placed right back into my gum.

I do know this - if I ever decide to do research in how to fix a badly broken tooth, Abhay is the first person I'll call.

And sometimes you just cannot help but laugh at the silliness. Arjun is a well known model and has been a patient for the past several months. We're just about to start his treatment when his phone rings. He picks it up and tells the person on the line - I can't talk now. I am in the middle of a shoot!!

A dentist has a tough job. We occasionally have to deal with paranoid partners, as in the case of Nikhil and his girlfriend. Nikhil is getting a smile makeover. It involves veneers, crowns, teeth whitening and many hours on my chair. After the third day of treatment, he tells me that his girlfriend is getting mad at him because he seems to be spending so much time with me.

As if on cue, his girlfriend (whom I have never met before) barges into my operating room and says - Anytime I ask him where he is, he says he's at the dentist.

I look at her benevolently and start to explain how this is a long procedure with no short cuts, but she is on a roll and I cannot get a word in edgewise. When I stop talking, I realise that she is saying - He's with you at nine in the morning, at two in the afternoon, at eleven in the night.

I tell her, he maybe with me at nine in the morning and at two in the afternoon, but I have no idea who he is with at eleven in the night and it sure as hell aint me.

Nikhil responds intelligently by burying his face into his hands....

Most recently, it was Mr Lall who was getting a root canal done. I had placed a temporary filling in his tooth (the temporary filling is a bit rubbery). He calls me later to say that the 'bubblegum' that I had placed in his mouth was getting loose and should be take it out and throw it or could he chew on it for a while!!!

I rest my case.

Happy smiling everyone.


Anonymous said...

lol, the last one was too good! Throughout the root canal I had, I could only think of the Ogden Nash poem from school!

Idling in Top Gear said...

LOL! I particularly enjoyed the bit about how the boyfriend claimed to be at the dentist at 11 PM! No offense, but dentists' hours (at least over here) make bank tellers' hours look like policemen's hours!

Ms Cris said...

LOL loved the bubble gum bit :D

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

Really? I mean, REALLY!?! These are so funny! So I'm guessing, never a dull day at the office?

Love your stuff!

Preeti Sharma said...

Gradwolf - Had you smiling there didn't I!!

IITG - LOL...that puts it all into perspective :)

MS Cris - Glad you enjoyed.

B - I mean I have to find some joy between roots and bone and gum, dont I. Luckily I don't have to look very far...

Toonfactory said...

Came to your blog from Abha's...really funny post...esp the bubblegum bit was really funny..

Mama - Mia said...

i had SUCH a laugh!!

that was brilliant post Preeti! ofcos all thanx should go to your special patients, nahi?!

i cant even pick a fav! they are all priceless!!

and you a scary dentist??!! :p





dez said...

doc, that 'bubblegum' was a squealer...

u seem to have a damn good sense of fun, why don't u contribute to Open Humour Blog ?

Preeti Sharma said...

Toonfactory - Thanks for reading and am glad you enjoyed it...hope to see you around more often.

Mama-Mia - already collecting material for Vol.3!!

Dez - Glad you think I have a good sense of humour - and coming from a copywriter, I'm thrilled:) Er, can I upload posts from my blog onto your open humour blog? Or does it have to be only original work?

Nithin Rajan said...

good one:)
I hope my dentist doesn't start blogging;)

Preeti Sharma said...

Nitin - And if he / she does, you'd better hope they change your name in the story!

dez said...

dr preeti, just send ur story to me at i'll upload it ...btw, i even ran two Humour Story Contests on my blog... may run another one :) look fwd to something frm u :)

dez said...

Oh!, to answer ur question, ya u can send stories frm ur blog.

Anonymous said...

hilarious!! thanks for stopping at escapades so i found you....btw where are you based out of?? i need a really good dentist in hyd...i think my teeth are moving too!!

Preeti Sharma said...

Arundati - You teeth will have to walk all the way to Mumbai for me to teach them how to stay put:)

second look at life said...

Brillaintly funny!! intelligent!! Oh u are my female modern era P.G.Wodehouse...hats off!!
the subtle humor, glossed over with a polish of wit just takes the cake.. again, one of ur best blogs :-))

Preeti Sharma said...

Second look at life - so I'm now getting good comments from a super smart Standford University management student...this is my moment in the sun.

B said...

Abhay's story was really funny..But ppl can talk like that when they wanna hold onto any kind of hope in saving their tooth

Very funny post..loved the tales from the dental chair

Preeti Sharma said...

B - Thanks and who says dentists don't have fun :-)

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