Tony Allen: And finally ... Pull the other one!

Mar 15 | 2022

We were three days away from a recent and long awaited overseas holiday. Everything was duly prepared; appropriate COVID regulations dealt with and all we had to do was to sit back and wait in a miasma of anticipation.

Tony Allen: And finally...Alas, life has a way of kicking you in the teeth; and in this case almost literally. Admittedly, I know that I’ve reached that age where the term ‘long in the tooth’ has a very apposite meaning, but, truthfully I must confess that I’d actually forgotten just how bad the pain from a toothache could be.

In reality I’ve had very few problems with my teeth during the course of my life and put this down, firstly, to a very brutal but effective school dentist - yes we actually had them in those days - and secondly to the dedication of a Mother who at the age of thirty had had all of her teeth removed in one fell swoop due to a serious periodontal problem, she was then supplied with a full set of dentures. This condition was quite common in those days and this ‘slash and burn’ approach was the standard National Health method of preserving funds. It had become a medical procedure that was quite widespread - as was my Mother’s smile! I should add that, although I was a child at the time, I was actually present when she sneezed her dentures into the English Channel at the end of the short pier at Swanage in Dorset and as a result had spent the rest of her holiday in a state of extreme sibilance.  Anyway, the upshot of all of this is that, as a consequence of her dental experiences, she always made sure that I went for regular dental check-ups, in spite of my protestations.

Anyway, my aching tooth got achier but fortunately I’d known our dentist for many years and I was sure that he could be relied upon for prompt action. We were on first name terms and I’d always looked upon him as a friend, apart from when he had his fist rammed down my throat.

My first step was to phone Jim - for that was his name – to make an urgent appointment.

“Is it possible to speak to Mr Nicholas please – [plaintively] urgently?”

“Sorry but Mr Nicholas has gone away on a long awaited holiday.”

[Painful gulp] Just a minute, what sort of a friend is it that goes away on a … never mind.

Inwardly I was thinking, fancy not being there when you’re needed, my family have probably paid enough over the years to educate your kids! But then I thought, hang on it’s the pain talking. We’re all in need of a holiday!                              

My extreme desperation and the vision of our holiday retreating into the background were soon salved when I did manage to get an emergency appointment later that day with a nice Mr Mathews – “Call me Andrew.”

Later that day, as I sat in the dentist’s chair with my raging tooth reaching a peak of agony, but being comforted by a dental nurse with a fully trained smile and with my hands tightly clutched across my stomach in the traditional method, ‘Call me Andrew’ commenced his excavations.

In due course and metaphorically wiping the perspiration from his brow, my eager young dentist informed me that I had two choices. I could be put on a course of antibiotics and then have some root canal work done on my errant tooth. I asked how much this would cost and was informed that it would be in the region of £800, during which time the dental nurse steadfastly maintained her fully trained smile. Blimey, I thought, it would have been cheaper to build the Suez Canal!

“What’s the alternative Andrew?”  I asked with some degree of trepidation, but knowing what the answer would be.

“We can remove the tooth now,” said our dentist with a flourish akin to the Three Musketeers, “it’s quite loose anyway.”

I must confess it had been a very long time since I’d had a tooth removed (thanks Mum!) so naturally I was somewhat apprehensive. But quite honestly and at that stage; the way I felt I would have been happy to have had my head removed so I elected to have the thing pulled out.

Do you know what? I really did not feel a thing, dentistry has come a long way since the old school dentist. Quite rapidly the pain had disappeared and I was back to looking forward to our holiday – apart from the fact that I’ve now got to have a haircut and that’s a bit of a worry!

Photo: Tony Allen.