The most horrific thing happened to me this Halloween. While chewing on a piece of Halloween candy flicked from the office kitchen, I bit on a piece of something rock solid. In a split second, I instinctively knew what it was. I was engulfed with a sinking, panicked feeling in my stomach. I'd be less freaked out had I spotted someone staring back at me in the bathroom mirror. I had bitten on a porcelain cap that was guarding one of my upper molars. I had gotten it done in Kolkata last year, amid lying in a pool of blood and tears during a root canal surgery. What is even more horrifying is that I had woken up that same morning in cold sweat after a nightmare where I saw some of my teeth falling off. I could not believe that I was living my nightmare happening for real within a few hours.
I immediately smelled dental cement. Shit! This was not good. I could have swallowed it by mistake and then, they would have to trace my plumbing system to get it out. Worse, I could have choked on it and died in my thirties, even before attaining tenure. Carefully, I spat out the tooth cap, my tongue feeling very raw on the exposed remains of the tooth. I wanted to keel over and throw up.
Last year, I had spent an arm and a leg and a sizable portion of my kidney to get a root canal done from this dentist who claimed that the sophisticated machinery he used meant one would feel no pain. Far from it, I had wept and whimpered, periodically spitting salty mouth wash and coagulated blood. His hands had felt like boxers pummeling fists inside my mouth. I had been sore for days. Even with all this, he had not done a foolproof job. Danger bells had started ringing in my head when I overheard him take a call and brag to someone about an upcoming Dubai trip and plans for buying the new iPhone. I instinctively knew whose wallet would be riddled to pay for it. I have always had a hate-hate relationship with dentists since my milk teeth days.
In a fit of panic, I made a terrible mistake. I somehow managed to put back the cap in its position. I instantly knew it was a mistake because now, I could not eat without fearing that I might swallow it once again. At night, I was afraid to fall sleep lest I swallow it and choke and die in my sleep (I slept on my stomach that night and duct taped my jaw). The next morning, I chewed on another piece of Halloween candy and there, the cap was out again. I was so relieved.
I messaged the Indian dentist on Whatsapp. Rather than sounding apologetic, he admonished me, sounding defensive and telling me how he had taken fresh impressions and gotten me a second cap (yes, this was the second cap that came out, he did such a good job). I wasn't expecting him to miraculously cure me on Whatsapp, but I was not expecting rudeness either. He alluded that the architecture of my teeth must be faulty (blaming the victim, as always). He asked me to find a dentist in the US and ask them to glue it back. As if I did not know that already. I hope that the Dubai trip was worth it. Someday, when dentists in India start getting sued for malpractice, I'll be the one laughing. Perhaps a toothless, gummy laughter by that age, but I'd definitely be having my last laugh.
It's been a nightmare since then. The next few days found me dentist-shopping, and the wide array of options confused me. Some said I need an endodontist, some said an orthodontist, and some, just a dentist. I have never seen a dentist in the US or Germany before (always depended on my Kolkata trips to get my vision and dental issues fixed), don't know how the insurance works here, and the thought of lying in another dentist's room scared the hell out of me. I am suddenly way more troubled at the thought of getting older. I am suddenly repentant for asking grandma more questions and making her talk more on purpose every night after she removed her dentures (and giggling at how funny she sounded). I feel sorry for having thrown grandpa's dentures on the garage roof at the age of five, just for fun. I can sense karma catching up with me big time. Will I ever be able to chew on a mutton bone from my biryani in peace? My Korean dentist friend once told me that most of the patients who visit her do so to fix their dentures since they sometimes come out while kissing with force (why people would be kissing with dentures on is a different story, but who am I to judge anyway?). Would I ever be able to do that without fearing disastrous consequences? Would I be able to fix my tooth without filing for bankruptcy? Would I ever be able to chew on a piece of bone without worrying? Or smile without looking funny? Would I be able to teach three-hour long classes from the next semester without bellowing like a broken harmonium? Or feel less mental about my dental problems? Stay tuned if you have nothing better to do in life and want to know. And if you have secretly suffered from dental problems all your life like I have, let's bond over virtual coffee and share those stories.