Wednesday, 27 March 2013


In common with many for a long time I had a fear of the dentist. It all stemmed from our childhood molar inspector; a kindly man called Mr Hudson who put up with a lot. The whole family were his patients and every few months we would troop along to his surgery in order to get checked out. Trouble was in the interest of hygiene he insisted on wearing a mask so he was only visible from the bridge of the nose upwards. His high forehead, piercing eyes and grey streaked hair made him the spit of Christopher Lee as Dracula!

As a very small boy these visits were an exquisite torture as we got to ride on the trolley bus.

This was the only time we ever got to travel on the whirring omnibus with its smooth ride and the smell of burning that seemed to accompany it.

So what should have been a wonderful adventure for a young boy turned into a nightmare.

Some kids grow into adults with a lifelong love of transport. Me? No. Forty years after my last trip on this bus I encountered it at the Black Country Museum in Dudley in the West Midlands. As I climbed aboard I felt odd and slightly uneasy as all the memories came flooding back.

It's not that Mr Hudson was a bad dentist. In fact my Dad reckoned he was pretty good. It's just that seemingly everytime we went I had to have a filling or two. I only got 3d worth of sweets a week so I doubt it was that meagre ration that was causing the cavities.

The treatment was agonising. Beginning with an injection from a huge silver syringe which numbed the lips...but not the gums and nerves.

Then hours of drilling with the accompanying smell of burning enamel.

I would then be returned to my mother a drooling whimpering wreck for the return trip. Knowing in only a matter of days we'd have to go and do it all again.

I bit him on one occasion. He slapped me!

On another occasion he noticed that I'd trimmed my eyelashes.

(I've no idea why either)

When my wisdom teeth came through he joked that I was too stupid to have wisdom teeth.


I met him at a party when I was about fourteen.

"You don't recognise me do you"? He said and then covered the lower part of his face with his hand.


When I was about eighteen or nineteen he retired and a woman took over his practice. She traded in his ancient equipment for state of the art instruments of torture.

Plus all the ancient copies of "Punch" and "The Field" had gone too. So there was nothing to read in the waiting room.

She never called me back for another appointment for some reason.


Then I got a job and started to move around the country. Never staying more than a few months or a couple of years in any one place I forgot about the horrors of dental surgery. I always cleaned them regularly and they didn't hurt so I thought no more about it.

On my fortieth birthday I was eating a kebab and half a molar broke off!

It was very neat and had fractured along a fissure in the tooth caused by it having been overfilled when I was a kid.

I ignored it and didn't smile much for a while but eventually decided that something needed doing and hopefully things had moved on so the treatment wouldn't be as excruciating as it had twenty eight years earlier.


Yup that was the passage of time.

What would they find?

As the long blonde hair of the twenty five year old dentist fell onto my forehead as I lay back in the chair she told me that she could tell I was a coward and it wouldn't hurt a bit and should I feel anything I was to tell her and she'd pump me full of even more anaesthetic.

She waved her hand and suddenly my whole mouth went numb. I hadn't realised she'd been holding a tiny syringe in her delicate hand.

She replaced three amalgam fillings and rebuilt the broken molar with the new white filling material. Scale and polish and I were as good as new!

That was ten years ago. These days I go every twelve months and fingers crossed to date have had no need of further treatment.

"Do you smoke"?

Asked my current dentist last Monday.


" Ah! Tea, coffee and wine stains. Come back in a couple of weeks and you can try out this new treatment we have. It's now bleaching. Come at lunchtime and wear casual clothing."

"Why we going paint balling"?

"No we sort of shot blast your teeth with this special cleaning powder and it goes everywhere"

Sadly unlike my regular treatment this isn't available on the NHS so I'm going to have to fork out £65 for it.

Bearing in mind as a kid any early morning visit to a relative would find them fishing their teeth out of a glass beside the bed. A wonderful interview I did with the late darts ace Jocky Wilson in the early eighties who admitted to only putting his teeth in to eat. The rest of the time they sat in his pocket.

Or the tale you told me on the show once of the elderly couple spotted sharing fish and chips on a bench outside a shop. Not only sharing the food but also passing the mutual teeth back and forth!

In order to keep my ivory castle in the peak of condition I think that money will be well spent don't you?

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