16 August 2013

The Six Month Check Up

Dentists.  We love them or hate them but we have to go to them.  If you are lucky it is only a couple of times a year.  In my case I am lucky - it's every six months.  Moving to another country away from the all-embracing old National Health Service system, I took the opportunity for a total check up before I left for Portugal. 

As a child, I have no memory of my dentist in Surrey, my first memory is of a dentist on the main road between Horwich End and Whaley Bridge (Derbyshire) and receiving a lolly or sweets after each visit!!!  How times change.  There again, the sweets we consumed in those days were probably made from real products, unlike the weird, multi-coloured addictive varieties of today.

Moving to Macclesfield in my teens, I then became a regular visitor to a lovely white haired, red cheeked dentist.  This is the first surgery I vividly remember.  Full of black and stainless steel contraptions and a strange, antiseptic smell. He also did a very good line in the pink mouthwash, which I was quite particular to.  I saw him every six months for the check up and he was the dentist who identified my impacted wisdom teeth and sent me off to Macclesfield Infirmary to get them removed.

For the operation, I had been asked if I would mind being observed by trainee dentists because I had rather interesting impacted wisdom teeth - the bottom two lying horizontally which apparently was unusual.  I had no problem with this - always been keen to be of service. I checked in as requested the day before and dinner was in the Children's Ward (!).  As I crouched down at the low dining table set in the middle of the ward, a boy with his leg in plaster and a hoist, lying in the bed opposite, enquired why I was there.  I told him I was having my wisdom teeth extracted the next day.  He grinned and informed me that his mate had had that done and died!  I think I offered to adjust his hoist! 

The operation appeared to go well but the following day I woke up feeling worse than I had ever (even to this day) felt.  I had an incredibly swollen and bloody face, and my mouth had shrunk to something resembling a goldfish's pout.  I managed to indicate to a nurse that she should put my mother off from visiting as I thought she would probably have kittens seeing me in that state.  I then passed out again until the following morning when I managed to clean my face after having been offered corn flakes or fish cakes for my breakfast (both of the crunchy and scratchy variety) I conveyed the fact that I couldn't eat a thing due to my mouth being about two inches wide and and full of black stitches.  Luckily I got an early release home and spent the next two weeks on sloppy food.  The pain of the operation brought home to me how painful procedures are in and around the face and to this day, cannot imagine why anyone would go through plastic surgery on their faces.

When I returned to the dental specialist for my check up, I discovered the main course of pain was the fact that my jaw had been dislocated to remove the bottom set of wisdom teeth.  Thank goodness for anaesthetic.  I was given the teeth as a souvenir and I was astonished at the size of the lower teeth.  They were both about an inch long and considering they were lying horizontally, I could see why my jaw had been dislocated.  The top two, also not small, had no space to grow in and therefore also had to be removed.  Made me wonder how big our ancestors jaws were as so many of us have our wisdom teeth removed.

My white haired dentist was rather thrilled with my experiences but I soon had to find a new one as he was coming up to retirement age and as I chose only to see him in the mornings - once having made the mistake of seeing him in the afternoon to be nearly gassed by the smell of gin - I asked around friends and was recommended a rather handsome chap I had seen around the area for years not realising he was a dentist.

Brian was a very good dentist and was horrified at the state of my mouth.  It appeared that my lovely white haired dentist, although doing my regular check ups and the odd filling or too, had totally failed to do any work on tartar.  The first check up to remove the tartar was injection driven and I returned to work later that morning doing a good impression of Dudley Moore in 10.  Dribbles of black coffee were prominent on my front as I failed to connect the cup with my mouth.

Leaving Brian behind when I moved to Edinburgh, I found a very nice Scottish dentist in Davidson's Mains (the Scots have wonderful names for places), and was informed by him that if he had as many patients with teeth like mine, he could play more golf!  I took that as a compliment.

Back down in Wiltshire, I became a long standing patient of The Barley Mow Surgery in Malmesbury.  My dentist had the clever idea of covering the ceiling with postcards from all over the world which took your mind off whatever he was doing inside your mouth.  He was also a staunch Stoke City supporter and I see that Dr Rory McNulty has now been made a partner from its website and is still flying the Stoke City scarf.  Congratulations!  It was a lovely little practice with smiling receptionists and a good variety of magazines to peruse. Great importance is always put on magazines in dentists and doctors in the UK!

The Barley Mow Dental Surgery, Malmesbury

When I arrived in Lisbon I knew I had six months or so to find a new dentist.  I struck lucky with a recommendation of friends, who had an apartment above a dental practice and although my portuguese was very limited, we managed to get by quite well.  Then I moved to Cascais and again on recommendation, I found the dental practice I have been with ever since.

Dr Harley has a practice in a building overlooking the market square in Cascais on Avenida 25 Abril (25 of April Road).  He has a very interesting background as he worked in private practice in Paris for 20 years before moving to Portugal.  He is a lovely, gentle dentist with a great sense of humour and I always enjoy the banter.  His hygenist, Victor Assuncao deserves a medal for working on my tartar problem.

As most people will be aware, the modern method of treating tartar is somewhat different to what I grew up with.  I gamely (twitching a lot) tried to cope with the myriad of items that go in the mouth, but eventually I had to admit defeat (ok cowardice) and persuade poor Victor to do it the old fashioned way, with the hooks and brute force.  He now works tirelessly on my problem and has probably got more muscles than Popeye in preparation for my twice yearly visits. He also has a nice line in green mouthwash rather than the pink. I also have to mention the lovely Graca - she makes everyone feel welcome, calms the nervous, politely phones the idiot (me) when I forget to make an appointment and always has a smile to greet you. Here's a nice photo of the three of them. 

Victor (in green), Dr Francis with Graca in the front

A nice modern dental set up at Dr Harley's practice

This was the one I remember from childhood - I know which I prefer!

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