As I mentioned in my previous post, my dentist proceeds at a leisurely pace. As I believe punctuality to be a virtue, I usually arrive a few minutes before the scheduled time of the appointment and this means I have to wait as the previous appointment rarely ends on time. I usually beguile the wait by watching the receptionists of whom there are two. For some reason they are always unusually small women though whether this is due to chance or to a predilection of the dentist I do not know. They wear white lab coats and latex gloves, even when handling files and using the telephone. It’s possible that they wear gloves because they are sometimes called into the consulting room to assist the dentist, though I imagine (and hope) that they put on a fresh pair of gloves before doing any assisting.
When he is ready, the dentist emerges from his consulting room and calls my name. But for his sporty blue dentist’s pyjama suit, he could be a waiter summoning me to lunch or a butler informing me that “The master will see you now, sir.” I enter the consulting room and am invited to take up position on the chair. It is long and designed to support the while body – more a couch than a chair – but as I am rather tall my feet dangle off the end. I have developed a method of crossing my legs at the ankles and that seems to stop my feet sliding off the end of the chair.
While I am settling myself in the chair, the dentist squats down on a stool. He looks as if he is about to milk a cow. He smiles benignly at me and then reaches into a box to take out a fresh pair of latex gloves which he dons with that irritating snap beloved of medical personnel. I know from experience that we are as yet nowhere near the stage of dealing with my teeth. A good ten or fifteen minutes of conversation lie ahead before we get to that point. He will always have some topic prepared: a political theme perhaps, with a Tory bias, or some other matter in the news that interests him.
He one day vouchsafed his belief that there must be a God. When he was studying dentistry, he explained, he had also studied anatomy and could not believe that something as complex and suited to its purpose as an eye “could arise by chance”. I was appalled. Surely dentists, like doctors, belong to that noble company of people called Scientists, people whose acquisition of knowledge is guided by logic and evidence, not by the irrational ramblings of creationists and the so called Intelligent Design crowd.
I made no reply. Firstly, it’s not a good idea to antagonize someone who is about to poke around in your mouth with sharp instruments and secondly, I know from experience that holders of irrational beliefs are not easily turned away from them and I had neither the time nor the inclination to try. It was almost a relief when he rose from the stool, smiled and enquired “And how are your teeth?”