Dilemma of being double booked on a red letter day with a new dentist for Steve Canavan

A month ago I had a check-up at the dentists, an occasion I always enjoy because it allows me to spend three minutes or so lying down without having to look after the kids.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 7:20 am
Updated Thursday, 17th June 2021, 7:26 am
Say ahhh... and pass the phone
Say ahhh... and pass the phone

I’ve got a new dentist now, which is a big deal for me as I’d previously had the same one for 40 years.

My old dentist was called Mr Bancroft. I never knew his first name – I’m not sure anyone did; even his wife called him Mr Bancroft – and I liked him because I’m not entirely certain he was actually a dentist.

He had all the gear – one of those fancy chairs that reclines at the press of a button; spectacles he wore right on the very tip of his nose which leant him an air of knowledge and wisdom; a glass of strange pink water for patients to rinse their mouths, which tastes partly like raspberry juice, partly like the bleach you use to clean the toilet. But I always got the feeling he didn’t quite know what he was doing.

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For example, whereas my new dentist – conducting a check-up – thrusts various implements into my mouth and moves them vigorously around while shouting things to his assistant like, ‘B1 A2 semi-molar. D3 half-waxed, D4 D5 full frontal nudity. C7 to C10 three Turkey Twizzlers and a week’s holiday at Butlins’ and so on, Mr Bancroft, after reluctantly putting down the News of the World he’d been reading and stubbing out his Marlboro Light, kind of sighed, peered into your mouth in borderline disinterested manner, then a moment of two later said, “yep, all seems fine – see you in six months,” before picking the paper back up and continuing to read Terry Venables guide to the new football season.

On one of the rare occasions he did spot a problem and told me I needed a filling, when it came to the procedure – and this is a true story – he got to within a few inches of my open mouth with a thundering drill, then paused, looked quizzically at what he was holding as if it were an old acquaintance he was trying to place, and remarked, ‘oops, wrong way round’ – then flipped the drill over and continued. In terms of instilling confidence it was the equivalent of a zookeeper in charge of the lion enclosure, saying “gee, I think I might’ve left that damn door open again.”

He died a couple of years ago while on holiday in France, which was a blow as I had an appointment with him the week after, and thus had to find a new dentist at a new surgery.

Disappointingly the new guy is very professional and – worse still - seems to have had proper training in dentistry, which though probably better for my teeth in the long run, means it’s a lot less fun going for an appointment.

Anyway, at my last check up I was told I needed two fillings. The receptionist booked me in for the ‘first available date’, some five weeks later (this would never have happened at Mr Bancroft’s; he had very few patients – not sure why - so would normally do the filling either there and then, if he’d finished reading the paper of course, or the next afternoon at the very latest).

The appointment was Tuesday of this week, at 2.50pm. Now – and I believe this is pretty much the exact definition of Sod’s Law – a very important work meeting had been scheduled for the same day, at 3pm.

It was a very serious, very official meeting involving all the staff at the university where I work, in which we had to rigorously check the results of students and discuss any issues arising. It is the type of meeting where humour and light-heartedness have to wait outside the door.

The meeting – conducted online on Zoom - was scheduled to last two hours and they would deal with individual courses one-by-one. So my Journalism course, I thought, if we went in alphabetical order as we usually do, probably wouldn’t be on the agenda till near teatime.

Just in case, however, I asked the dentist if I could put the meeting on my mobile phone as he did my fillings, just so I could keep abreast of what was going on.

About midway through the procedure, with the dentist prodding things into my mouth, the meeting began and, with some astonishment, I heard the chair say the words, “Right, we’ll start with Journalism – Steve Canavan, are you there?”

Not since I was aged 14 and my mother burst into my bedroom unannounced while I was studying a quite graphic magazine leant to me by one of my more dubious school friends have I felt panic like it.

But given there were very few other options, ie. none whatsoever, I had to unmute myself, turn the camera on and – with my mouth wedged open, and 250 other staff members watching – respond in the only way I could manage, which was “arghhhh.”

There was a slight pause while the chairman of the meeting – a senior figure perhaps not used to conducting a meeting with someone undergoing dental work – took in the scene.

“Ahm jus hav fillin,” I managed, which was quite impressive given my mouth was being forcibly wedged open.

My dentist, perhaps wanting to get in on the act, interjected and said, “he’ll just be five minutes.” I stared at the camera in what I hoped was a calm manner meant to suggest all this was perfectly normal, and added, “ye, fve monets.”

Fillings complete, I went back online as soon as I left the dentist. The chairman greeted my arrival with the pithy remark, “how are your teeth?,” at which point I had to apologise again.

I think he and the 250 or so other staff saw the funny side, though if the P45 arrives on Monday I’ll know otherwise.

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