Wisdom is bloody expensive business, literally. It’s not much fun to be overtaken by a tsunami of pain starting from the jaw and threateningly inching up to the brain. What’s worse, in moments like these there is usually someone around to offer an insignificant looking clove for relief (Really? Clove? To fix a hard tooth growing crookedly? You might as well give me a grain of rice).
I’ve tried all recommendations and reached the ugly conclusion that there is no home remedy for toothache. Take the reclining chair or kill yourself. And you very well will want to when the wisdom tooth, or worse teeth, begin to protrude through your unaccommodating gums. The third molar is a prank played on us by our Palaeolithic ancestors, and we are none the wiser for it.
The wisdom tooth’s popping in or out will define whether you suffer from physical pain or financial pain or both. You can either hope that it manages to grow with a generous nourishment of painkillers, or pray that the tooth extraction is done with while you are unconscious (I can imagine the knowing smile on the faces of those of you who’ve come out alive from that one).
In such cases the problem of finding the right dentist is usually larger than the tooth itself. I once found myself alone with a toothache in Bombay with parents out of town, and friends being more forthcoming about wine shop reccos than dentists. Obviously I went to Google next, and look what rock stars turned up amongst the 50 clinics listed in the area:
Location: MG Road, Goregaon West. Directions online say ‘look out for the garden’.
Situation: A patient comes out, I go in. Dentist has brown teeth (!) Proceeds to examine my mouth without changing gloves. Casually declares that a tooth needs to be extracted, while preparing an anaesthesia injection. Says it’ll take about 30 minutes. Lunges at me. I duck and escape. In the haste forget to grab my slippers. Buy a pair of chappals on the way to office instead.
Location: Kapadia Hospital, MG Road
Situation: Pretty female dentist. Looks very surprised to see me; apparently I’m the first patient there in months. Asks me if I’m Catholic. Asks what kind of music I like. Scribbles a disease name in trademark illegible doctor script and asks me to Google it. Also offers to write articles on cosmetic surgery for the magazine I work with. She goes to get her visiting card, I go to get a cab.
Location: Small clinic near Goregaon station
Situation: Female dentist in a room roughly the size of a Godrej cupboard. The chair of fame trembles and swerves 90 degrees each time the door opens. Also torn at edges to reveal sponge that is so grey that the manufacturing date must go back to pre-Independence days. Gives me some pink pills wrapped in white chart paper along with a cell number and quips “come soon!” Says I can also call her brother if she’s not in. Bro turns out to be a vet.
Location: Nanavati Hospital
Situation: Doctor busy discussing dinner plans with a random woman (neither hospital staff nor patient). I wait and watch smiles and jokes being exchanged. Doctor is bald and strange. Young, not over 35 years old but insists on calling me ‘beta’. Snatches away my Wills packet. Wrongly diagnoses me as diabetic. After a full-jaw X-ray declares I should get myself hospitalised and have all four wisdom teeth removed in one long surgery. Insurance, beta?
After going through over a dozen dentists when I finally found the one I like – through my mum’s suggestion, as it happens – I kid you not, I wrote him a love letter. He promptly blocked me on WhatsApp, probably filing me away as the psycho writer kid. But who cares, the admiration I felt for the way he handled my mouth merited some form of verbal acknowledgement.
These days, with the first white of a third wisdom tooth showing up in the bathroom mirror, I’ve got my hands folded in prayer. I’m tempted by the way my favourite author Roald Dahl handled this dental mess – he got them all pulled out at the age of 21 after deciding that they aren’t worth the lifelong trouble. Teeth featured often in Dahl’s prose as well as poetry.
News like this don’t help. But I hear dental tourism is big in Goa, allowing the troubled traveller to have an extraction done and wash down the pain with a couple of pina coladas. I know I at least wouldn’t mind a reclining chair on a beach for a change.
Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar