Naturally, I never reveal my age (a lady’s prerogative, as I hope you’ll agree), but I can let slip this one telling fact; I’m old enough to have experienced the disturbing phenomenon known to some as the Bad School Dentist of Yore (male, by the way; they were always male).

I have distinct memories of coming home from appointments with this Bad Dentist, the accompanying parent hitting me over the head with the words ‘Whist up! There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re grand!’ and me all the while trying to alert same to the blood pumping from the hideous gap in my mouth and down my school jumper. We call them the Bad Old Days for reasons like this.

A book I read this year about the Magdalene Laundries of old (Ireland’s now-not-so-secret shame, and one that we still haven’t atoned for as a nation) was an eye-opener. If I had suffered at the hands of the Bad School Dentist of Yore, I imagine it was nothing compared to the experiences some women endured when the Man who Pulled the Teeth came a-calling at the behest of the nuns.

From what I gathered, this man needn’t even have been a qualified dentist. It seemed to me like he was just a local man with a pair of pliers in his toolbox, who pocketed a few extra quid from the nuns by yanking out the offending teeth of the so-called ‘penitents’ (they were not the ones who had anything to be sorry for!) without anaesthetic or after-care. Jesus wept.

Luckily for me, anyway, I grew up with good solid gnashers that haven’t needed much work over the years beyond the six-monthly cleaning and check-up. Recently, however, a check-up revealed that I had a filling which needed replacing.

Was I happy to hear this? About as happy as I would be to be told that my ‘f-f-f-fun-buddy’ would be classed as a close contact, and we can’t see each other during the pandemic for fear that we might give each other coronavirus. Oh, wait a minute. That’s already happened, lol. The sex-ban, that is, not the virus-passing! Still not happy about it, though. At this stage, a good ride might even be worth the risk…

Anyhoo. This had better not hurt me, I said darkly to my dentist this morning, re the filling replacement. In this namby-pamby snowflakey society we inhabit now, we’re totally allowed to say things like this to our service providers, and they totally have to pander to us like we’re spoilt, fussy children in case we take our bucks elsewhere. It’s a far cry from the Bad School Dentist of Yore and his ilk, and no harm either.

It’s just a little prick, my nice lady dentist assured me sweetly, or words to that effect. You won’t feel a thing. And you know what? She was right. My gum was numbed so that I wouldn’t feel the needle going in, then the nasty stuff- the scraping, poking and drilling- happened while I was all numbed up.

As a tired mammy-of-two, if you lie me down anywhere for a minute, I tend to nod off straightaway. Believe me when I said that I was very nearly relaxed enough during the procedure to doze off for a bit in the dentist’s chair. At the very least, I was able to come up with a few ideas for my next Work In Progress, THIRTEEN STOPS 4, which is quite hard to do at home because of all the distractions and calls on my time.

The best part was that I was petted and praised every step of the way, by the lovely lady dentist and her gentle female assistant, for being such a big brave girl. They just stopped short of gifting me with a lollipop on the way out. (I was mildly peeved about this. Where’s my lollipop?)

I thoroughly enjoyed the placating and encouraging. I felt like I was getting real value for money. In fact, the most painful thing about the whole experience was the bill for the filling I was presented with afterwards.

I decided to post this piece for the benefit of anyone who might be putting off going to the dentist after bad experiences in their childhood with the Bad School Dentist of Yore. Trust me, I’ve been there.

I solemnly promise you, though, that dentists aren’t like that any more. They’d be struck off, shure. You’ll be mollycoddled, pampered and jollied along, and, before you have time to fully finish your Chris Hemsworth-in-the-shower fantasy, the naughty canine/molar will be gone/filled/repaired/polished/shining like the roof of the Chrysler building. And that’s the tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth. Guide’s honour.

(As coincidence would have it, the day after my dental appointment, I got talking to a lady in her sixties who was kind enough to share her own experience of the Bad School Dentist of Yore with me. This surpassed anything I had myself gone through. Her dentist reeked of booze and was actually smoking a cigarette while he treated her.

When ash from his cigarette fell on her person, she naturally started to cry. He called her ‘a little bitch’ and actually threatened to ‘strangle her’ if she didn’t pipe down. Do I believe this lady’s account of her childhood dental memories? To be honest, yes, absolutely. As the country with the Magdalene laundries on its conscience, we’ve actually done much worse.)


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

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