Ever since I was first taken to a dentist as a child, the words ‘Open Wide’ have sent a chill down my spine. (Not a photo of me…)
In the early 1960s, the interior of the dental surgery looked like an execution chamber in an American prison.
Just look at that chamber of horrors! The Spanish Inquisition couldn’t do better! The drill is operated on a cable, and whirred so slowly as they drilled into your tooth, it made your jawbone ache. Most dentists were elderly men back then, and had a stern ‘chairside manner’ that did not involve putting their patients at ease.
It didn’t help that dental treatment was then free on the NHS, so we were supposed to be grateful for being tortured without anaesthetic. A filling was supposed to be tolerated without recourse to pain relief then. Not that I would have wanted the injection anyway. The glass syringes had reusable needles that looked as long as arrows.
And woe betide you needed to be put to sleep for treatment, as that involved ‘gas’, delivered through a big rubber mask strapped over your face. Even when you thought the worst was over, they would spray jets of freezing water onto your teeth that made your toes curl. Then you had to ‘Rinse!’ That meant drinking a glass of pink fluid that tasted like medicine, swirling it around in your mouth, and spitting into a shallow dish with a plughole at the bottom.
Dental health wasn’t that good then, to be honest. We ate too many sugary and starchy foods, and generally only brushed our teeth once a day. Added to that, my dad favoured abrasive ‘tooth-powder’ over toothpaste, and we were ignorant of the fact that it was damaging the enamel on our teeth.
Fast forward fifty years, and my current dentist has premises that look more like a nice hotel room with a designer armchair.
It helps that I have to pay now. I can still get a portion of free treatment on the NHS if I claim it, but I don’t bother. The staff treat me like a ‘customer’, and the friendly young Spanish dentist sits chatting before picking up any implements. He doesn’t even say “Open wide” any more.
But I still hate it.