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.