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Don't Forget to Scrub Your Molars!

Page 2

Bill Hampel

Mum felt we deserved something better. All three siblings at home were dealt a poor hand when it came to dental health, despite constant assaults on bacteria with elbow-bending brushing. My excessive vigour in teeth cleaning echoed older brother Ian, who did everything with gusto. His language was significant. ‘Don’t forget to scrub your molars!’. I knew that the reminder also included incisors. Only later, after my gums receded, did I realize the virtue of gentle brushing.  

Wednesday came. “Are you ready Ian…Neta…Fay…Bruce, Bill?” The two youngest boys’ names never seemed to come readily to Mum’s mind.   

No dentist plied his trade in Ouyen, the one in Red Cliffs, a 90 km drive on gravel road, was the nearest. Perhaps because of the distance and my mother’s concern about missing school, but our dental visits left nothing to chance. In one day, my sister Fay had numerous injections and six fillings. I can still hear the squeak as dobs of amalgam were pressed into what remained of my teeth. This industrious excavation and filling began when I was young, such that by my mid-teens, my fillings had moved into their second edition.

Our dentist did all the right things: white coat and antiseptic surgery, but his efforts at reassurance left me unconvinced. And then there was his breath. Or did it come from an uncooperative stomach? It was a veritable banquet of foul bacteria, what in retrospect should have been a professional handicap. But Mum stuck with him because he was well-meaning, and aware of the toothlessness of many rural aged, he gained great respect by enabling my grandparents to continue to eat solid food.

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