Parts of this story really happened.

Did you know that dentists have the highest rate of suicide of all the medical professions? It’s true. I mean, I can’t back that up, but that’s what my mentor, Tom Berkoff, told me. And he would know.

Besides, it make sense. People hate going to the dentist. Especially kids. They’re terrified of us, much more than a GP, and at the end of the day we can’t even give them a lollypop. And for what? For a war against decay and neglect that we can never win. It’s depressing and it’s demoralising. But that’s dentistry.

You probably don’t want to hear about this right now, do you? No, don’t speak. The anaesthetic’s kicking in, and you’re just going to get spit down your shirt. I’ll raise the chair a little. There you go. Comfy?

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is this: we dentists are far too hard on ourselves, you know? I’m proud to be a dentist. Sure, we don’t have the money or glamour of craniofacial or cosmetic orthodontistry, but when you talk to someone, where do you look? The eyes? No. The mouth. You’re lipreading all the time, without even realising you’re doing it. And that means you’re looking at the teeth. Strong teeth. Crooked teeth. Nicotine-stained and rotted teeth. Missing teeth. No matter what shape they’re in, teeth are the windows to the soul.

Just relax. You lower lip is probably pretty numb by now. Let me vacuum that up.

Sorry, I’m in a bit of a funny mood today. Tom went and topped himself, and I’ve just come back from the funeral. Very sad. Small country town. Everyone knew him, you know. He wasn’t just their dentist, he was their neighbour. And even they couldn’t save him. Poor bugger. 68 years old, fit as a fiddle, still seeing patients three days a week. And then one day, he completely loses it. Won’t come into work. Starts ranting about how he doesn’t know who he is. How he’s old, and finished and he’s afraid he’s going to die.

And then he does. Throws himself into the sea.

Okay, this might hurt just a little bit. Good, good, good. That’s the worst of it. Just need to give you one more injection.

So, I’m over at the Berkoff’s to help Marnie, his wife, get his affairs in order. No kids, you know. And I’m in his study, going through his papers. And I find his diary. And it is dark. I mean, really bleak. About how wasted his life with work, and how he wants to start over. How old he is, how old his wife is.

And I should point out, Marnie is gorgeous. Like the two of them have always doted on each other, but suddenly, here’s this man I don’t recognise at all, pouring out this venom about her bony, saggy, wrinkly body and his ballooning stomach. About how he fantasises about killing her, or faking his own death and running away.

And sure, everyone has these feelings, don’t they? I mean you get to my age, you finally have all the confidence and self-awareness you need to take on the world, and your life is over and your body’s gone to crap. But that’s what life is.

Easy. Just one more. Good boy.

And then in the middle of all this vitriol, I find this hand-written … essay?

Yeah, I guess you’d call it an essay. Crazy stuff. He claims that the soul actually gestates in the rear molars. You know, the ‘wisdom’ teeth. And is drip-fed into the brain via the trigeminal nerve as you reach adulthood. Neat, huh?

Of course, by the time you have your wisdom teeth removed, they’re pretty much spent. But if you catch someone young enough, like yourself, say, those teeth are still active and your patient’s soul can be, uh, transfused. Or something.

Load of rubbish of course, but the level of detail in this fantasy was amazing.

And you’re all done! Rinse and spit. Good lad. Now you might feel a little aching in the back of your jaw over the next few days. You might get a little vague or disoriented, but you should be right as rain by Wednesday. Oh, and take one of these every meal to prevent infection.

No, there’s no label. I made them myself.

No, I wouldn’t worry about. You’re a young, healthy kid. It’s just a precaution.

Anyway, see you again soon.

©2012 Dave Bloustien

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3 thoughts on “Cavities

  1. Debyl1 says:

    Now I am even more scared of the dentist 🙂

  2. bloustien says:

    Like all these stories, this was inspired by something that happened to me personally. I have an excellent dentist, but he really start telling me about the suicide of his mentor (and that dentists have the highest suicide rates) while he had both hands in my mouth for a dental filling. According to Snopes, however, the highest suicide rates are for the medical professions generally, not just dentists. #downinthemouth

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