To Be Frank - Fangs for the memories

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I can’t honestly remember ever being scared of going to the dentist – but as a youngster, I certainly had some experiences that were, shall we say, less than enjoyable.

My earliest fang-related memories, as a young boy in the 60s, are of being taken by my mum on the bus to a dentist in our hometown. It’s not the dreaded chair I recall, and I can’t even think now what the dentist looked like. What I do remember, even after all these years, is gas.

Sounds a bit First World War, really, doesn’t it? I don’t think a small boy’s mouth is what they really mean by the trenches, although I can clearly recollect my mum being seriously unimpressed that her own little soldier had to spend a day in bed, just to recover from the effects of the gas.

Every gas attack has a silver lining, though, because this dentist was conveniently situated close to a fabulous bakery – there’s logic for you!

How ironic that my lifelong obsession with cakes could have been born out of trips to the dentist ... even if, with unimaginable cruelty, there would have been times when I was too ill from the gas to eat any!

When I was a bit older my teeth needed straightening, so I had to wear a brace.

Now, in those days, braces were nothing like they are today – they were just a pink plate that attached to the roof of your mouth, with a single piece of wire around your teeth.

This brace was simple to take off ... and that was the problem. It wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, and the temptation for a schoolboy to take it out and slip it in your inside jacket pocket was overwhelming.

Trouble is, you then forgot all about it. And the next thing you know, your blazer’s a goalpost, or you simply crash into something, and oops!

Back to the dentist for a replacement.

After I’d broken the third one, the dentist, not unfairly, had had enough. And so I still have crooked teeth today (all the easier to eat cake with, though!).

But all this pales into insignificance compared to the terror of The Drill. In those days, this was a serious instrument of torture.

I’m not kidding – it was evil. In fact, my hands are going clammy, and my brow is starting to sweat, just thinking about it. It was a huge metal cantilevered arm, like a giant steel praying mantis, which the dentist would swing round and attack you with – sorry, I mean use to drill your teeth.

The worst part was the thick black wire running along its length, which powered its evil-doing, whirring and buzzing with a terrible sound.

Did it hurt? What do you think!

But how times have changed. I went to the dentist the other week, and for the second time running I had to have a filling. And as is always the case these days, not only did I not feel a thing, but it was all over before I knew it.

Honestly – you feel like turning round and saying: “Is that it? Really??” In fact, I’d go so far as to ask are people even scared of the dentist any more? And if so ... why?