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Don't Forget to Scrub Your Molars!

Page 3

Bill Hampel

Not always the most perceptive person, and certainly unaware of my habitually cheeking teachers, but Mum realized that even going to school might have been preferable to visiting the dentist. She therefore took us to a Red Cliffs restaurant for a luncheon treat. The immaculately suited restauranteur, silver hair, red flower in buttonhole, motioned us with a forced smile to a table covered in lace table cloth. He moved, with great care, not to obscure a photo of an attractive young woman prominently displayed on his desk. ‘My daughter’, he said with evident pride. ‘She was a model, you know.  Now she’s married to the President of Lebanon”. Or was she just dating him, and the proud father had high hopes for her?

Despite this Middle Eastern connection, the meal was distinctly Australian: vegetables reduced to mush and lamb peaks emerging from a sea of gravy. Not that the quality of food was my main concern. By this time, my jaw had locked from holding it open all morning, and  it was more than I could do to stop dribbling over my frozen lips into the gravy.

In that era, needles took on frightening harpoon dimensions and I had become used to the euphemistic ‘Just a little prick’. Our dentist’s custom was to drive home the injection and then attend to my brother Bruce in an adjoining surgery, while my anaesthetic staggered towards its paralysing objective. Periodically, he’d come back and give my gums a poke to assess the progress of face numbing. ‘A bit longer’, he’d say with the comforting satisfaction of a country woman testing a cake with a skewer. Meanwhile, my infantile thoughts fluctuated between guilt and wistful memories of the small doses of chocolate that had quietly supplemented the destructive work of genes. The business of numbing didn’t stop at nerves and gums. It affected everything below my eyes. Our dentist believed in carpet bombing.

Afternoon saw more of the same: More needles, more jackhammer pounding from the drill, more spitting, grinding and sanding, and finally, release. Or so we thought. The long trip home in encroaching darkness was no treat. Car sickness meant we pulled over to punctuate the still, roadside air with our retching. With paralysed lips, even that had its problems. To our relief, these dental visits weren’t frequent.



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