A rich man´s pastime

‘Crack!’ The sound of the breaking tooth resounds in my skull. It doesn’t hurt because of the anaesthesia, but I do feel exactly what she’s doing. The sensation of the wisdom tooth removal reminds me of a dream I once had, in which all my teeth scattered in my mouth.

As I recently earned a bit of money and thought it would be wise to invest it in something useful, I got myself a dentist. My previous visit was over 5 years ago. My new dentist is a very attractive blonde woman in her thirties with big bright blue eyes. I have the luck to stare into those while she is digging into my mouth. It’s unfortunate that visiting her costs about a hundred euros per half hour.

I do not particularly like dentists. Next to the fact that they perform the best earning profession in the Netherlands, it is their job to judge your mouth without knowing you, and to present you a highly expensive improvement plan, which you basically have to agree with, because they are the experts, and what do you know about the teeth you have lived with your entire life? Besides, they confront you with the fact that you’re getting older and start falling apart. And if you haven’t really been able to afford a dentist for a while, your teeth are not your strongest pride. I only had a small bleeding under my wisdom tooth and some plaque, but that lady who was otherwise quite sympathtic managed to make me feel bad about myself within the twenty minutes I had (even if I had no cavities, or serious issues). Then she expeced me to pay two months’ rent for a cleaning progam she prescribed. Very confusing.

Are dentists a vital human need, or a luxury? Nowadays, if we see a person who lacks teeth, we consider this person dirty. Judging people by their teeth has become normal. The truth probably is that this person cannot afford going to the dentist. Perhaps it’s not always the case, but without a regular cleanup by a professional, it seems that our teeth would fall out when we are a few decades old. Old people in third world countries seldom have all of their teeth, just like elderly people who live on the streets in cities. A natural part of life, it seems. Then again, animals who lose their teeth usually simply die. End of story. That’s not what we want.

Okay, so let’s assume teeth are not a luxury issue, but a basic human need. Then why are dentists so incredibly well paid? Why is it so hard for some people to afford it? And why do we frown upon those who didn’t manage to keep up? We are taking this one for granted. Is that also what is going to happen with plastic chirurgy? Nowadays, you are allowed to have wrinkles, hanging boobs or a bold head. Will those slowly turn into signs of self-neglect? Will they represent the poor, uncivilized layers of society? I suppose it will probably take a number of decades before the masses truly tip on this one, but high society is well on its way with rebuilding their bodies in to those of adolescents. After all, being young sells better than being old, does it not?

It appears that dreaming of losing your teeth, your fangs, has something to do with the fear of losing power. Vitality. The fear of getting old. The dream was long ago, but the memory is right here. Indeed, I’m bolding, indeed my skin is not as supple as it was, and yes, my teeth are not as white as they used to be. I guess physical growth is over, it’ll be maintenance from now on. And apparently I’m not the only one who cultivates such lingering anxieties.

After half an hour, when I’m allowed to remove the cloth from my mouth, I taste something familiar. Walking through the Jordaan, it takes a while before I realise what I know it from. It’s the same taste I got after losing my baby teeth as a kid. This was perhaps the last time I savoured it.


8 thoughts on “A rich man´s pastime”

  1. Uh oh! I haven’t had any dental work done since 4th grade and my teeth are still perfectly fine. But you don’t want to hear this. Moving on. Act as though I was never here. 🙂

  2. This is relevant for me and I have a somewhat similar thoughts.
    May share more later. Have to go call my orthodontist now. 🙂
    No joke, its on my to-do list today.

  3. I tend to be practical about such things. Their goal is to help you keep your natural teeth for as long as you can, because eating is easier with teeth. Like any other doctor, or nerd of whatever interest, they’re very into their field, so they love telling you about and getting you to try all these things, some of which are unnecessary and/or strictly cosmetic. You’re allowed to say no. They’re expensive because it takes quite a bit of schooling to do that, and it would be very difficult for you to do yourself, particularly extractions. Though I often wish I could be taught how to do the routine cleanings myself.

    I don’t really think one’s teeth are a reflection of ones character, but often can be an indicator of one’s health, which from a caveman perspective is kind of important.

    My advice, not that you asked for it, is to brush and floss regularly so they don’t have as much work to charge you for. Then agree to and budget for a practical maintenance routine. but don’t overthink it too much 😉 hope you’re feeling better after your extractions!

    1. Okay, I won’t overthink it, then ; ) . My extraction went fine, though I didn’t really suffer from the molar in the first place.

      Indeed, they are in their field. And they have the power there. Which is great for them.

  4. 🙂 I have always enjoyed your writing, but this one is a pure gem. It has everything, great in and out perspective, objectivity, humour,authenticity.
    Are dentists a vital human need, or a luxury? I think they are not a vital need, but also not a luxury. We give them the place in our life, we are those who make a choice what to do ad when, whatever they say. They are, like many other things today, one of the ways we give up and place responsability for our lives in somebody elses’ hands. In this case even literally.
    Besides, in Austria you do not pay the dentist for all kinds of treatments. Definitely you do not pay for extractions if you have a normal health insurance which, here, most people have.
    For other interventions like cleaning or protetic work, some people go to Hungary or Croatia and have the same treatment including the staying for the money they would pay in their country, if it is one of European countries.
    Considering health topics, it is recomendable to do as much as possible as a prevention, so that you do a therapy only when necessary. I think that is the connotation of the remark that our health, including our teeth, reflects our character.

    1. Hi Mirjana!

      Thanks for the compliment. This was one of the harder posts to write, so I’m glad the effort paid off in your view.

      Here in the Netherlands, health insurance charges you the first 400 euros you pay per year. Since I normally don’t have any issues, that means that I’ll simply have to pay the operation myself. And I do hope I won’t have to use the insurance for something else this year. Some of the costs I make now are not covered unless you pay extra for the health insurance.


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