I still remember the day when this horrible incident happened to me. I had been to a Mexican restaurant with a friend. He had been praising the restaurant to the skies for many days in the past and I was compelled to check it out. We went to this place after office hours and were savoring an authentic Mexican dish, when suddenly I heard a cracking noise inside my mouth. I was shocked to see a small piece of my molar tooth, which had broken off. I got that salty taste of blood in my mouth and I realized that I may be in for big trouble. My friend was more shocked than I was.

Though there was not much pain, my friends convinced me that a trip to the dentist was necessary to rule out any problems. The last time I had let a dentist investigate my teeth was in school when a famous toothpaste company had arranged some dentists to visit our school and give a free checkup. I still remember the beautiful dentist advising me to get my teeth checked up every three months so that I could have trouble free teeth for the rest of my life. I was wondering if I did not have teeth problems, then how I could see such a beautiful dentist every time.

I never took much care of my teeth because of this reason, but I never had any problems, not even a small cavity. Now, the moment that I had been waiting for, had finally arrived. I consulted a couple of friends who advised me to consult a reputed woman dentist whose clinic was located in downtown. I took an appointment for a Saturday evening and reached her clinic on the appointed time. Once I reached inside, I was amazed by the whole environment. It looked like the clinic of a person who was a stickler for cleanliness, all the walls painted in white and tastefully decorated with paintings.

Also hanging on the walls were pictures of various dental problems and a cute child’s advertisement suggesting daily dental care. The red sofa kept in the hall contrasted with the walls. There were a couple of patients seated on it, waiting anxiously for their turn. A grumpy, elderly receptionist was seated in one corner behind an arc shaped desk, busy knitting a sweater. I went straight to her and told her about my appointment. She scanned me thoroughly, browsed her diary, and then told me to have a seat. I had a look at the persons sitting around me, each of them eyeing me as if I was the next to be sacrificed at an altar.

A young man sitting opposite me had a swelling on his right cheek and was pressing an icepack to it. I presumed it was a tooth extraction. He seemed to be in severe pain and the icepack was evidently not providing much relief to him. There was a young couple sitting next to him, holding hands; the man comforting the woman. It seemed that she had come for a surgery. Looking at her made me all the more worried about myself. I tried not to look at her, to feel more confident. In a bid to distract myself, I reached out to the adjoining table where a couple of magazines and periodicals were kept.

I browsed through the entire lot containing some health related magazines, gossip magazines and dental journals. None of them was new, making me wonder whether the dentists’ practice was such a non-profitable one that they could not afford new magazines. Out of curiosity, I picked up a dental journal which informed about various progress made in the dental field. I came to know that due to the general public not taking care of their teeth, a lot of dental problems like tooth decay, plaque, cavities, gingivitis, etc. were being largely reported.

Some of the images in the journal were alarming enough to convince me to brush my teeth twice a day and visit my dentist more frequently. I made a mental note to follow this routine as soon as I reached home. For the moment, I decided to while away my time amidst the various celebrities in the gossip magazines. The door of the dentist’s cabin opened and a beautiful young lady stepped out. She looked pale enough to faint, came and sat down next to me. I smiled at her to ease her pain and she stared back at me, as if to indicate that once I came out of the cabin, I would not be smiling. She waited for sometime and then left.

I could feel the palpable tension in the room, myself and the woman seated opposite me trying to predict our future. The lady opposite to me was called next. Meanwhile, my name was announced next by the receptionist. I went to her desk, my legs wobbling under me. I was met by the dentist’s assistant who told me that I needed to have an X-ray done so that the extent of the damage could be found out. Inside, I could hear the dentist working on the woman. The loud noise of the drill, clatter of the carvers, hooks, mirrors, picks, probes, scrapers, spatulas and the agonizing shouts of the woman terrorized me.

I had to take the biggest decision of my life, whether to get an X-ray and dentistry done or just leave immediately. I convinced myself that all the pain and the torture that I needed to undergo would not be worth the effort. As Ogden Nash put it very clearly in his famous poem “Because some tortures are physical and some are mental, But the one that is both is dental”. I felt it would be better if I let the tooth remain as it is and carry on with my day-to-day life. I had one last look at the poor people in the waiting room and fled out onto the main road into a carefree world.