Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Dentist's Next Patient

“Next please,” the middle-aged dentist spoke, poking his head out and taking in the number of patients he still had to work on. Plen-ty.

More than fifteen, he thought with mild distaste. On the other hand, the pay is going to be good today.

He closed the door and waited. The next patient was here to get his/her teeth filled. (He often couldn’t distinguish between male and female Middle-Belt names).

He had just dried the hands he’d washed. That the last patient had bleeding gums was an understatement; he’d told her to rinse her mouth with salt-water eight times. At the moment he was tired – of everything. People just didn’t care about their teeth enough. He often wondered what they stared at in the mirror for so long… it certainly wasn’t their teeth.

There was a timid knock on the door.

“Come in,”

The patient turned out to be a female. Probably in her late teens. And she looks familiar, he thought to himself.

“Em… good morning Sir,” she began timidly, managing to smile a tight smile.

“Yes, good morning. Please sit down,” he wanted to get it over with sharp-sharp.

She slid onto the chair without hesitation. Her eyes registered a healthy amount of fear as she watched him pick up the equipment from the nearby sink.

“I’ve sterilized them,” he reassured her.


As he approached her, he observed that the fear in her eyes was intensifying. It seemed like she had just considered bolting away but had thought better of it. She closed her eyes tight.

It’s better like that sef.

“Open your mouth please”

She opened. Three holes stared back at him. He hissed mentally. Hadn’t she noticed them before? He was about to inject the lower gum that held the premolar with the largest hole when she opened her eyes wide and held onto his hand. Or more like latched on.

Ha-ah! See me see trouble O!

“Release my hand now,” he nearly shouted. He was beginning to recollect small-small now.

“Please Sir…” she begged.

“Please what? I’m trying to relieve you of your pain. What are you thinking?”

“I know Sir, but please…”

He-e! Wonders, they say...

“Look, remove your hand. The sooner it’s done the better. After the injection you won’t feel too much pain,” he managed to force his irritation back. I still have plenty patients to attend to. I won’t tolerate this much longer.

Sensing his anger, the girl apologized, her eyes sad and scared. It melted a small part of his heart.

He lowered the injection once more. He made contact with soft gum… well, just barely. Before he could say "energise", her body jerked hard, and once more his hand was gripped by small hands. Surprising how strong an individual could get under duress…

“See…!” he began, thoroughly annoyed. “I have a lot of patients to attend to-” Tears streaming down her face vexed him some more, but also touched him. He remembered now:

Young Miss Weeping had been here before – twice, in fact. Once when she was barely three feet tall, and the other time was… three years ago? People never learned. To be fair though, the latter visit was no fault of hers. She had been ‘gifted’ with enough extra teeth, making her dentition scary-looking at best. Her mother accompanied her that day, and he adviced her (the Mum) to give her some medication, since she was “the hysterical type”. It looked like things hadn’t changed much.

As he watched her try to compose herself, he calmed down.

“I think you need some time,” he said, his calmness surprising him.

She looked up, sniffing. Grateful. “Thank you Sir,” she replied with all the gratitude in the world. It warmed him. He made a note to be more patient with his patients next time.

“That’s okay. I understand.” He smiled reassuringly, not feeling so tired and stressed after all.