24 JANUARY 1987, Page 43


The tooth will out


In Competition No. 1455 you were asked for a passage extracted from a book entitled The Confessions of a Dentist. Dentists? I've had 'em all. The first was an Irishman my parents thought should have never been accepted as a member of the golf club. As he guided the drill, an unsophisticated piece of machinery in those days, into my childish mouth, he kept up an unamusing patter — 'Enter the Archbishop of Canterbury, singing and dancing', that sort of thing. Later there was the professor at Guy's Hospital who used ine for a complicated demonstration in front of a theatre of students (`You there at the back, Macpherson, come up and look at all this gubbins in the open apex'). Then the frail, aged ex-professor from Prague Who took two and a half hours to extract an local wisdom tooth with scalpel and local anaesthetic and was clearly more frightened than I was. He was followed by a German whose wife rang him while he was on the job to say that she was running off with someone else (`Come back, Please, little kitten.' To me: 'To ze waiting- room go wait!'). The next one was accused Of murder — guilty or innocent I never found out. Since then I've had a Chinese lady, an Indian who said 'Jolly well done' When I had done absolutely nothing, and now it's an Australian with gibbon-like arms who wants them all out. The big fight is on 4 February.

Did you know that 'molars' is an ana- gram of 'morals'? That Philip in Where Angels Fear to Tread sneers at the son of an Italian dentist? That the only movie dentist who springs to mind is the Nazi torturer played by Olivier in Marathon Man? That the word 'dentist' occurs once in The Great Gatsby? Have you read Woody Allen's series of letters, If the Impressionists Had Been Dentists (`Dear Theo. . . . I can't work to order like a common tradesman! I decided her bridge should be enormous and billowing. . .')? I guess not.

The winners printed below get £12 each, and the bonus bottle of Ferreira Late Bottled Vintage Port, donated by Stowells of Chelsea, is Noel Petty's.

One golden afternoon about this time, I made the happy invention of dentimancy. Inspecting a Mrs Fitzroy, I jocularly remarked that she had highly developed wisdom teeth, and had she any philosophical forebears? Startled, she admitted to a professorial grandparent, and asked me what else I could see. I purred some thoughtful banality about avoiding journeys and expecting good fortune etc, and when she left I found a ten-pound note pressed into my palm.

The word went round like wildfire. Society ladies now appeared in droves for tooth- readings, often without dental pretext. Miss Harbottle and I became ever more creative in the interpretation of elongated incisors and truncated bicuspids, occasionally resorting to whiffs of laughing gas to stimulate our flagging invention. To save an ailing marriage I would even interfere with destiny by modest dental rearrangement. Prosperous days indeed! Alas! It could not last. (Noel Petty)

Is there no mysterie in an open mouth? For hath not your dentiste studied these seven years the skills of Master Mar-gum that was ever your gentlest pulltooth? Is your doctor longer in the making? Yet let but your dentiste enter upon a companie that is foregathered and one will say, "Tis but the dentiste', give him good morrow, then fall again to talking. But if the next moment there come some doctor, be he never so raw, then will all of them hang upon him and, ere that he hath begun the telling of them, laugh at his tales. Should your dentist essay the same, as it might be 'There was this molar impacted...' then will some fellow break in upon him to say,

"Tis your round, Master Dentiste.' Thus, fearinge the doctor, shall they blunt his purpose. Faugh, why doth the world not more honour a dentiste? (Fergus Porter) If you'd been raised in Tombstone, knee-high to a coyote, with bad eyesight, you'd have become a barber/dentist. More money on the barbering side. Not to say there weren't times when an extraction plus a dab of iodine didn't make you a friend for life. You didn't always collect your dough but nobody gunned you down. Why, doggone it, it seems like yesterday! The night before the OK Corral shindig Doc came in for a shave and Wyatt had a canine dragged out at the roots. And the elder Clanton boy had his hair cut. He was yaller. He was even scared of the scissors. Wyatt came in next day at noon to have his whiskers trimmed.

When I was nigh on seventy they started on films of the West. Showed us barbers too. Never blacksmiths. I kept my anvil out back of the shop; and my pliers. Horses gets toothache too.

(Brian Coates) Late one Sunday I opened up my surgery to attend Sheikh El Arab. There had been a message from the FO asking me to oblige. It was not for toothache: a rival sheikh at the oil conference had gold fillings which he displayed ostentatiously. It was important to El Arab that he should have as much to show. At his insistence I gold-filled extensively all his sound incisors. Two days later he returned. At the conference his edentulous neighbour had re- moved his solid gold denture, placing it on his blotting pad while he spoke. Eventually I was persuaded to fix to El Arab's canine teeth several diamonds which he provided. Not only did his opened mouth then sparkle like a chandelier but he could demonstrably chew glass. Thereafter my practice among Opec ministers spread. In due course the large pay- ments received in foreign currencies led to my receiving the Queen's Award for Industry.

(Ralph Sadler)