Written by Jenny Morrill


Dental illness

When it comes to conjuring images to go with a trip to the dentist, Jenny Morrill struggles to get past Marathon Man. But what’s a woman to do when she’s half a tooth down?

Her expression says it all: the unwatchable ‘dentist’ episode of Peppa Pig. Image: E1 Kids.

Last week I tried to make a list of things that are worse than going to the dentist. This was my list:

1. Nuclear war
2. Being murdered

I had to make this list because I was desperately trying to make myself feel better about an upcoming trip to the emergency dentist.

If this were a TV show, this would be the part where it freezes on me as a sobbing, terrified puddle on the floor, accompanied by a voiceover: “Yep, that’s me. I bet you’re wondering how I ended up in this situation…”

Last Wednesday night, as I was eating a cracker and minding my own business, one of my back teeth decided to break in half. I spat my ex-tooth out and looked at it, becoming aware of my own impending death as I did so. I was falling apart. Next all my bones would snap, my hair would fall out, and my tits would deflate.

Embarrassingly, when I wasn’t thinking about my inevitable decay, I was wondering how much I could get out of my boyfriend if he felt sorry enough for me to pretend to be the Tooth Fairy.

I’d had a pain in this tooth for the last few months; it hurt to chew anything harder than water on that side. However, I had a plan to deal with this. My plan consisted of ignoring it for the rest of my life. As far as I was concerned, my plan was brilliant because it didn’t include me having to go to the dentist.

“The announcement that I’d done my own filling led to my followers assuming I’d actually drilled into my own teeth. They didn’t bat an eyelid at this because I’m northern and that’s what they do in the north.”

In case you didn’t get this from the list above, I am terrified of going to the dentist, to the point where I can’t watch the dentist episode of Peppa Pig because I’d shit my organs out.

Here’s a typical conversation between me and the dentist:

Dentist: “Right, I need to look in your mouth.”

Me: [throws stuff] “No, fuck off.”

Dentist: “Well can I at least come back in the room?”

Me: “No get away! I’ll call the police!”

Dentist: “Well can you at least open your mouth and I’ll try to see into it from here?”

Me [with raised fists]: “One false move and I’ll twat you! I’ve seen Steven Seagal films!”

I’m not a model patient. The thing is, this shouldn’t be the case. I’m fine with doctors, so I should be fine with dentists. I mean, a dentist is only a doctor with a B&Q loyalty card, right?

This might have been the case, had I not had a terrible experience with a dentist when I was 19. I won’t go into too much detail, because I don’t have enough booze handy to numb the trauma, but here’s the gist: I had root canal, and the dentist didn’t use enough anaesthetic. When I complained (loudly and violently), he told me not to be such a baby.

Needless to say, this experience contributed to my view that all dentists are serial killers. So I stopped going to the dentist voluntarily, only making an appointment when I had the kind of toothache that convinces you you have a paper cut on your soul.


“Is it safe?” Laurence Olivier as sadistic Nazi dentist Dr Christian Szell in Marathon Man. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

This time I was spared that toothache, but I was still worried enough to admit that I had to go get checked out. Since my old dentist had closed down (probably to avoid me), my boyfriend booked me into his dentist for the following morning. In the meantime I needed a way to at least be able to drink liquid without hurting my skull, so we went to buy me a temporary filling kit from the all-night chemist.

I got back, put the putty stuff over the hole, and that was that for the night. Me being me, I also tweeted what I was doing. This announcement that I’d done my own filling led to my followers assuming I’d actually drilled into my own teeth. They didn’t bat an eyelid at this because I’m northern and that’s what they do in the north.

Part of me, deep down, might have been OK with attempting to drill my own teeth if it would mean I didn’t have to go to the dentist. Because, as I said, all dentists are serial killers.

OK, a couple might not be serial killers, but they’re never going to convince people otherwise by lunging into their mouths with power tools, without so much as an “Isn’t this lovely weather we’re having?”

If I were a dentist, this is what I’d do:

1. Take patient to the pub.
2. The next day, take patient bowling (being careful not to hit patient in face with bowling ball).
3. Wait by the phone, giggling, for patient to call.
4. Get patient round to mine for beer and movies.
5. Only when patient has added me on Facebook do I suggest doing dental work on them.

I bet my patients would be queueing round the block. But, you know, funding and all that.

Back to the present. I didn’t sleep the night before my appointment. I lay on the sofa, rigid with fear, listening to Round the Horne in a feeble attempt to block out the inevitable fact that tomorrow the dentist would pull out all my teeth with pliers, and the only anaesthetic would be reading to me from The History of Anglo-Saxon Farming Methods.

“‘Wait, you can be sedated for this stuff?’ I said, a bit more angrily than I meant to, wondering why I’d never been offered this before.”

By 8.30 the next morning I was shaking like one of those weird vibrating plates they sell on Ideal World. I tried to flip through a waiting room magazine to distract myself, but ‘How Oats Can Make Your Menopause Wonderful!’ didn’t do the trick. Neither did the well-meaning woman opposite me, who insisted on giving me her entire dental history, which “didn’t hurt too much”. By the time the dentist called me in, it felt like my entire skeleton had been removed.

Then three things happened. Firstly, my dentist was called Dr Terpot, which I misheard as Dr Teapot and this made me laugh. Secondly, he talked to me like I was a wall, rather than his next victim.

This didn’t stop me instinctively trying to thump him though, and while I was apologising, the third thing happened:

“Has anyone ever recommended sedation to you? Because you’re a very nervous patient and you’d definitely benefit from it.”

“Wait, you can be sedated for this stuff?” I said, a bit more angrily than I meant to, wondering why I’d never been offered this before. I tried to remember this wasn’t his fault, and that I shouldn’t thump him again.

He carried on talking to me like I was a wall. “Yeah, I’ll write you a referral to a place that does it. You probably only need a filling, or a crown.”

That was probably the only time in my life when my mouth was voluntarily open at the dentist. He wrote a note and passed it to the dental nurse. Neither of them had called me a wimp while drilling into my skull and laughing.

Apparently I’d done a great job with my DIY filling and was now Super Dentist. I was sent away with instructions to wait for a referral letter. When that arrives I’ll go to a clinic and presumably get Valiumed off my tits, laugh uncontrollably, and make an arse of myself by telling all the staff I love them.

All that time thinking that going to the dentist was just a horrifying experience to be avoided and then endured, and then shoved to the back of my mind next to that memory of weeing on the hall floor during PE.

All that unnecessary anxiety, when I could have spent my time at the dentist in a pleasant, day-glo haze, wanting world peace. I can’t for the life of me fathom why I’ve never been offered sedation before, but now I have, I’m not sobbing in terror at the thought of having a filling.

I mean, if I have to choose between getting off my tits, and punching the psychopath trying to take all my teeth out for fun, getting off my tits wins hands down.

Now all I need is for someone to offer me drugs whenever there’s a spider in my flat, and I’m all set.


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Written by Jenny Morrill

Jenny writes for Den of Geek and anywhere else that will listen. To date, the most Trios she has eaten in a row is 20. Her blog is the place to be if you like Bungle and expired food. worldofcrap.co.uk