Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Concerning Ye Toothache
Sod's Law applies to many situations, and, for me at least, one of them is toothache. Why is it that whenever I have a problem with a tooth my dentist is unavailable? This particular offending molar first gave me trouble just after Christmas, neatly coinciding with the holidays when everything was shut down. I spent New Year's Eve sitting on my own at midnight drinking whisky, not to celebrate the arrival of 2007, but in a futile attempt to dull the pain while everyone else was out carousing. I then suffered in silence for another four days until my dentist returned to work and prescribed some antibiotics to reduce the swelling on my gum because by then I was developing an abscess. The pills worked and I had no further trouble till last week when it started to niggle me again, before suddenly flaring up with a vengeance on Friday afternoon. Of course, by then the dentist was off for the weekend, so I decided to sit it out till yesterday morning when I tried to get an emergency appointment. But naturally he was off work then and I could only get an appointment later today. A couple of years ago I had a similar experience, developing raging toothache on the very day that my dentist had flown to the Alps for a week on the piste.

There's something about the gnawing intensity of toothache that simply beggars belief. It certainly concentrates the mind when you have no alternative but to endure it, and nothing, but nothing, seems to bring any relief. All you can conclude is that it would be even worse if you weren't popping the painkillers, but that's not exactly a lot of comfort as waves of throbbing pain surge remorselessly through your jaw, down your neck, and up to your cheekbone. I was trying to apply some form of mind control earlier, but with zero success. It's impossible even to hold a conversation when it strikes. Now and then there are moments - lasting perhaps half and hour - when it mysteriously subsides and you get an almost euphoric feeling merely from its absence. Suddenly you can function again, perhaps do a little work or drink some tea, or write a blog post, then boom, it's back.

Robert Burns wrote an Address to the Toothache, describing it as the 'hell o' a' diseases', which, while a gross exaggeration, contains a grain of truth. He also mentioned the affliction in a letter to his publisher William Creech: 'I had intended to have troubled you with a long letter', he says, 'but at present the delightful sensation of an omnipotent toothache so engrosses all my inner man, as to put it out of my power even to write nonsense.' Too true.