Friday, 8 May 2015

Sweet tooth horror! Part one: the dentist’s chair

Picture by Dylan Swannock (age 7)

A number of years ago I was lying mouth agape on a dentist chair, groaning with agony and trembling with fear. The dentist placed clunky tinted glasses over my eyes, positioned a big light over my head, picked up his little mirror and bent forward. Suddenly he jerked upright and took a few steps away from me. My terror sharpened –what the hell was in my mouth?

There was on my dentist’s face an expression that was part awe, reverence and uncertainty; an expression not unlike the golden iconic portraits of saints enduring the passion of martyrdom. Then the dentists spoke, in a hushed voice: ‘I’ve heard of it, but never thought I’d see it for my self – a true case of Glasgow Trench. Do you mind if I take a picture?’

After he snapped a few photos on his phone, he popped his head out the door and called to his colleagues. Within minutes the little room was packed with dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, the receptionists, a couple of curious patients, and the water delivery guy. ‘This man’s mouth, the man in my chair,’ declared the dentists with pride, ‘is a wonderful example of an incredible phenomenon we call Glasgow Trench.’

He placed a hand on my shoulder and continued, ‘It is a condition prevalent, but not unique to, the city of Glasgow. It begins in childhood. The child eats an indefinably vast quantity of sugary snacks and drinks, whilst only rarely placing a tooth brush in his mouth. The child turns into a youth, and the youth into a man, all the while snacking and slurping sugar packed goodies. Is that not so?’ I nodded in agreement and gave a thumbs up. It was not the most edifying moment in my life, but I was happy enough – it’s not every day one discovers they have a condition so inimitably awful. Beside, I was hoping the exclusiveness of my condition might get me a discount on my dental bill.

Warming to his theme, the dental practitioner explained that; ‘The first filling takes place in early childhood. It is quickly followed by another and another. Eventually, by adulthood, there is little enamel left to see, the entire mouth is covered with the dark glint of dental fillings. Behold! This is true Glasgow Trench.’

My mouth was starting to hurt again, I could feel little needles of pain smarting in my jaw. But the guy in the white smock ignored my waving hand. ‘The word Trench is most appropriate,’ he continued, ‘as the condition results from the steady chipping, digging, gauging and drilling of ever deeper holes into the teeth in a vain attempt to eradicate the plaque that is eating them away. But it is a name that echoes that other famous Trench, the Mariana Trench deep in the Pacific Ocean. 

'Both are dark and mysterious and subject to immense pressures, which lead to volcanic eruptions in the one and gum eruptions in the other; rocks slide and shift and crack down in the watery depths, just as teeth splinter and collapse in the decaying chasm of the Glasgow Trench. In the Mariana Trench this convulsive energy leads to new life and creation; in the Glasgow Trench it produces white hot spasms of brain piercing agony, depression and even in the worst cases death!’

Just on cue I was visited by one such white hot spasms of brain piercing agony. My audience gasped in amazement, while I twitched like a frog on a frying pan and the dentist nodded gravely. ‘Leave me now,’ he asked his audience, ‘so that I may attend to this poor unfortunate.’

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