Part 2: The Dental Consultant

The Dental Hospital is undergoing building work so having been directed to the Third Floor we were then re-directed to the Second Floor where the Clinic was being held. One needs to be physically fit to go anywhere in the Heath Hospital as significant walking is always required. I was called at 910 for a 9am appointment; not too bad in terms of time keeping. To enter the dental suite one has to press a button to open the doors, the only problem is they don’t stay open very long. When I say not very long of course it’s adequate for the average mobile person but for a snail paced plodder like meself it fails miserably. To avoid being sqwished before the doors the Dental Nurse has to stand and press the button repeatedly! God the disabled are a bind!

The Clinic resembles a call centre (or perhaps a battery farm) with a huge open space populated with scores of little booths furnished with a dentist’s chair surrounded by equipment. There isn’t even a nod to privacy or patient confidentiality so presumably teeth aren’t a sensitive matter (excuse the unintentional pun). The screens between each booth are waist height so everyone can see well everyone else; stories are (unintentionally) shared (with those with good hearing). Annoying snatches of half swallowed sentences reveal half nuggets interrupted by dental equipment and personnel busy in the mouths of the myriad of random Cardiffians (and doubtless Valleys residents too).

Today the other Dentists and Dental Nurses are apparently qualified personnel undertaking an MA in some teeth related matter. The Second Floor is where the Student Clinics take place hence the volume of booths – of course the students need practical experience I just hadn’t ever thought about the reality of it i.e. that real patients are needed to hone their craft on. Of course there are Professors and Consultants supervising the trainees but even so would you want to be a human lab rat given the nature of dental pain? Ironically the thought metaphorically puts my teeth on edge.

The Consultant I’m seeing works in Restorative Dentistry and is a pleasant strawberry blonde; the epitome of the family man. What I hadn’t appreciated what my Dentist was looking for advice; the Dental Hospital were not being asked to take me on as a patient. Disappointing as this means muggins is going to have to pay for this damage inflicted by the NHS prescribed drugs.  By the end of the consultation the figure of £800 has disappeared somewhere over the horizon replaced by numbers with 3 zeros attached. Goodbye to that new cigarette case I’d been sourcing in anticipation of plain packaging!

‘Are you OK with latex?’ he asks. Heavens love we’ve only just met! ‘The gloves?’ he clarifies. ‘Yes’ I answer and he visible sighs with relief. When I ask if many people have this aversion/allergy he explains that the problem is the non latex gloves are a nightmare to get on, have a tendency to tear and basically aren’t very user friendly! Apparently there are a growing number of people allergic to latex; something to do with contemporary living perhaps? Rather disturbingly is the vigour with which he pulls on the blue gloves and claps his hands together as if to say ‘ready’!

The smiley Dental Nurse who came to get me from the waiting room is assisting the Consultant and stands to my left side. Just as we’re about to get started she leans over the sink next to me and suddenly I am engulfed with water! ‘Oh that’s keeps happening in this one’ she says smiling ‘are you very wet?’. ‘Not too bad’ I reply anxious about my red handbag (more than the black corduroy two piece from Gudren that is having its first outing). ‘Oh it’s a good one isn’t it? You can tell quality’ the nurse continues as she dabs it admiringly with a tissue!

After exchanging frankly irrelevant comments about the poor state of the facilities we resume proceedings. Selecting a pointy metal proby thing the Dentist gets to work.  Examining my teeth he pokes around, moves my tongue gently out of the way, makes a few pensive noises (a combination of clicking, clucking and hmms) and then sits back to deliver the verdict.

‘It’s an unusual pattern of decay, I’m going to send you for X-rays (accompanying friend had told me to expect this as she had previously been a patient here)’ the Consultant says. Then he pauses pensively as if sizing me up before continuing ‘Would you mind, and you don’t have to say yes, if we took some photographs at the same time? The photos would be for a publication.’ No that’s fine’ I reply smiling. ‘Your face wouldn’t be visible’ he starts, ‘well course your mouth would be but nothing recognisable’.

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