It’s now about two years since I finally managed to get to the dentist following months of pretty agonising toothache. I must confess that I’d never been a great one for looking after my teeth, and this had finally caught up with me, as a result of which I needed to have two of them root filled.
This is known in the trade as “repentance.”
Root canal treatment gets a bit of a bad press, but it isn’t as painful as its reputation suggests, and despite claims to the contrary, it does not cause serious illness. It’s certainly not easy — it typically involves two one-hour sessions per tooth — but in my case at least, it was nowhere near the Abu Ghraib experience that it’s often made out to be. In fact, if anything, it’s a bit of a relief, since the moment that you get numbed up at the beginning, you wave goodbye to the agony that drove you to the dentist in the first place, and the Number Nine Hedstroms poking into the deepest recesses of your molars for the next hour or so are a piece of cake by comparison. In fact, the most painful bit of the treatment is the bill that you get at the end of it. Root canal work is not cheap, even on the NHS.
However, today I was back for some more punishment.
A chunk broke off one of my root filled teeth at Faith Camp and this needed a bit of attention. Now because I was away on holiday throughout August and I attend a fairly busy dental practice and they are usually booked up a month or so in advance, it was only today that I managed to get the appointment to have it fixed and prepared for a crown fitting. It’s worth the wait though — my dentist is a real pro who sets herself very high standards. However, I do wonder a little bit about not fitting a crown to this particular tooth right at the beginning. It’s apparently not always necessary to crown root filled molars, and given the price of a crown it isn’t something you would exactly want to splash out on unnecessarily, though in the light of my experience it seems that it’s probably best to veer on the side of caution.
Today’s course of treatment involved cauterising back my gum round the offending tooth — again, relatively painless since I was all numbed up, though the smell of burning flesh is a little bit disconcerting and somewhat surreal, especially when you think that the flesh in question is your own. Nevertheless, I wasn’t in too much pain at the end of the session, which surprised the dentist, since she said she had had to cut further back on my gum than she was normally comfortable with.
I said, “Well I was praying before I came in.”
She said, “It’s obviously worked then.”
So in a couple of weeks I go back to get the crown fitted. There are four different types of crown that you can get. £400 gets you a top of the range one made from a compound of zirconium that for rear molars is apparently in the “more money than sense” category. £300 gets you a gold one, or gold with a porcelain coating. But these are the private options. The only one that the NHS covers is a metal one — nickel or something, for £100. This is a real cheapskate option — non-precious metal crowns are banned in most other countries because they react with the acids in your mouth.
Guess it’s the £300 option for me then. Ouch.