17 December, 2008

'On Dentists': A Tribute to Jerome

Note: This essay is my tribute to the style and humour of Jerome K. Jerome, who is my favourite humourist. :) Do comment.

On Dentists

A lot is thought of dentists, mainly because they let you do nothing else while you are sitting on their couch and they are running a carpenter's workshop in your mouth. Sadly, not all that is thought is fit to be presented on paper, but I gather that dentists save the skin of our teeth, we ought to give them credit for atleast a few escapades we've all had in our young days.

I myself dislike dentists, but that's mainly because I don't take care of my teeth too much, and everyone hates an admonition. But I can't bear a toothache, and I have to run to one (a dentist, not a toothache) every time it starts paining so awfully.

“Oh, Mr. __, you see, you have two bad molars there.”

“Oh, is it?”

“Yes, and the plaque has gotten to your nerves there.”

“It sure has, Doc.”

“No, I mean... I mean, there are only two things you can do. You can have those teeth removed, or you can do a root canal operation on them.”

“What's a root canal?” The word is rather pornographic.

“It's a rather complicated procedure wherein we remove the nerves in your teeth, and...”

“Remove the nerves. Good riddance. I say, remove all of them in any teeth I have!”

I don't get the point of nerves in teeth, I don't. Why should a rock have nerves? Besides, all those little nerve-endings feel and pain and heat and cold. I don't know what the creator was thinking when he ordained that all teeth, tiny or big, molar or incisor, canine or human, should have those nerves in them. The only purpose they serve is letting us know when our tooth is in the final throes of it's existence.

And boy! Do they let us know? They could be subtle (the nerves, not the teeth), and maybe silently whisper in our ears to give tooth number this-and-this a decent burial. But no, they have to scream it in our head. You know how hard it is to concentrate when a beeper is going off? I once walked into a building where such a beeper was proclaiming the existence of what claimed to be a serious fire raging through the top floor and about to destroy the whole structure.

I knew of these things, and ignored the warning. But the guard who I walked up to was quite nervous and looked concerned, and there was pandemonium all round him.

“Is it a new alarm?” I asked him.

“Yes, sir, installed just four days prior.” He said beaming, while another gaurd tried to run behind him and got caught in his own legs.”

“Why is it wailing, the poor soul?” (The gaurd, not the alarm.)

“Oh, he joined just yesterday. He's not quite used to these things.” He answered as the guard got up and tried to jump over his head (Not his own head, you see, but that of the man I was talking to.)

“So, this isn't serious?” I screamed as I put the earplugs I gave in my ears.

“Oh, no Sir. If it were, this building would have burnt to the ground a thousand times over in the last four days.”

They are a real serious problem, these alarms. Our nerves could, if they wished, periodically sound an alarm to the brain, asking to to notice untoward behavious amongst the teeth. But to scream like that and try to put our brains on 24-hour tooth decay alerts. Gosh, those misbehaving nerves. I myself would be pleased with a set of plastic teeth any day instead of these bone-and-enamel ones we have gotten, if it weren't for the unfortunate fact that pulling a teeth our gives you the experience of what a concentration camp would be like.

It's quite painful, that moment where your teeth get pulled out. Or so I hear, because whenever my dentist presents the two options to me, I always go for the lesser evil of root canal. Put I hear that the lack of grace with which a dentist pulls out his teeth would make a carpenter shudder. They're regular carpenters, these dentists. I have been convinced that there is a carpentry class in every dentist colleges, with their miniature drills and little screws.

I was once on the dentist's couch while another patient was being treated by his assistant on another couch. My guy was pretty busy making holes in my teeth (which, by the by, he promised he would fill later), while all of a sudden, I heard a crash followed by a loud cry followed by the name of the lord uttered in vain enough times to make a pious man's heart explode. My guy ran to the other couch, and I heard bits of the conversation, the only printable one of them being: “Atleast now you know you don't need root canal, Mr. __ .” Then my dentist came back to me and told me that his assistant had slipped while drilling into a molar of Mr. __, and the drill was of no use anymore, it now having a tooth attached to it. I feel sorry for him, but Mr. __ finally calmed down and took the tooth home as a sovenier. My dentist afterwards assured me that accidents happen only rarely in dentist's clinics, and I believe it.

That is because dentists, I daresay, are also artists. The minute you open your mouth these skilled sculptors start looking for imperfections, blemishes, and proportions, and would love you to come again some other time and let them turn your 32-set into a marvel that would challenge the 32-piece chess sets of ancient Chinese emperors. The minute they begin drilling, you know that they are only trying to correct, modify and put away all the accumulated sins of your teeth, and give them a fine shape as they were they day they were born.

But they love to see a perfect model like any painter does. Hence, dear reader, let us brush and floss and mouthwash and brush once more, so that the next time you see your dentist, you'll not be the only one showing all your teeth.


  1. hmmm... it's pretty good. i guess i just can't relate, i like my dentist and have never had a filling, tooth pulled or root canal

  2. Well, it is not your best effort at humour The potshots('root canal sounds pornographic', run to a dentist, not a toothache' and others) were pretty lame to be honest. Apart from the fact that most of us can relate to being in a dentist's chair, there aren't any stereotypical gags about dentists in the essay. I do not know if you were trying to be funny, but if you have been, then it just didn't click bro.

  3. I second Amar. But keep trying!

  4. Ah, your remarks about dentists being artists reminds me of Woody Allen's "if impressionists had been dentists!" :)

    it's a whole new look at the work of dentistry! :)

  5. this one made me run to the sink and floss...