A wind-swept autumn afternoon recently found me aboard HMS Belfast. Permanently moored on the Thames, this Second World War Royal Navy cruiser is now a museum ship.
Away from the gun turrets and torpedo shafts I was drawn to the more mundane aspects of onboard life. The living quarters, kitchens, bathrooms…
… and the fully equipped dental surgery. Like an exhibit at Tussaud’s, we are presented with the ship’s dental surgeon at work over his patient. A vivid tableau indeed, complete with soundtrack! The instruments and equipment is arranged cheek-by-jowl… some familiar to me, some not so. This made me reflect on how different… how much better… dentistry has become over the years.
A One-Armed Dentist
My mum was treated as a child in the 50s by an unfortunate chap who had lost his arm in the First World War and had a rather stern military chairside manner. No happy crocodile stickers for being a brave girl in those days!
Having a filling seems to have involved him putting his patients in a kind of headlock as he looped his “good” arm around their neck while simultaneously operating the (foot-pedal powered) drill. Presumably an uncomfortable experience for both parties.
This turned my poor mum into a dental phobic and it was many years before she could sit in a dental chair.
The author Martin Amis seems to have a rough ride at the dentist as a child… he gave the experience a name: horrorism.
Mum often tells me how things are now immeasurably better at the dentist compared to 50 years ago (can you imagine 500 years ago?).
New patients to our practice often tell of how, having been scared witless of the dentist in childhood, they had neglected their teeth in early adulthood, ending up with a cocktail of dental problems in their later years.
But it’s great to see how motivated people get about their teeth once they have been coaxed back to the chair by a caring dental team using modern gentle techniques. My mum has a splendid set of gnashers these days of which she is rightly proud, complete with crowns, veneers, the works!
I think people are more aware of oral health issues these day. Science and technology has given us better materials and equipment. And I think that we as a profession are a bit… well… kinder!
Let’s face it… dental treatment is never going to be pleasant. But I think we’ve come a long way from the white-knuckle rides of old.
Now… can I get you a cappuccino while you are waiting?