Recollections of 1970’s dental appointments bring to mind thoughts of oral torture chambers infused with odours of stale gas anaesthesia and the flatulence of nervous patients. Visits in which you’d open your mouth for treatment which’d be closely followed by a pain induced “Aaaaarrrrggghhh” – As opposed to the much calmer “Ah” associated with GP oral checks.
These appointments taking place in cold, monochrome environments in which you’d take the dentist chair in sight of large scary looking dental instruments. Some of which wouldn’t have looked out of place in the maternity ward of Gateshead’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
During this decade my dentist was Mr Davidson. His surgery situated among a block of shops adjacent to the footbridge straddling Durham Road in the middle of Low Fell’s shopping area. Mr D’s ‘office’ located above a relator’s premises, accessible through a featureless wooden door and a dark staircase which led to his receptionist area.
It was as you rose this stairway that the unmistakeable stench of stale gas anaesthesia started to overwhelm me; subsequently ramping up my anxiety levels to an altogether higher plateau. Not to mention making me misguidedly ponder whether jumping from the nearby footbridge would’ve made for a pleasanter ‘family day-out’.
To embellish the level of the fear factor, at this point I was going to fictionally add the receptionist’s area exhibited a display of necklaces and bracelets made from extracted patients teeth. Accessories that could be purchased for a few pence, or available gratis if any of the gnashers were yours. Quite clearly, though, that wouldn’t have been true. Consequently, hold that thought!
Don’t get me wrong Mr Davidson was a perfectly amiable chap. Very forthright, but with a dry sense of humour which he’d use to try settle his more angst-ridden patients. Once you’d got over him performing his work adorning a Jason Voohees mask, you soon realised he was an engaging man capable of lightening the unpleasant environment.
In middle age, I still bear physical reminders of my childhood orthodontist – Legacies in the shape of fillings and two crowns. That being said, I’m unsure if any of them are Mr Davidson’s original handiwork or, if like Trigger’s broom, the afflicted teeth have none of their initial component parts.
Mercifully, these days visits to the dentist are far less fraught affairs. Contemporary orthodontist practises bequeathing patients a far more welcoming environment. This includes warm lighting, serene background music, gratis apples, and most importantly none of the stale odours produced by anaesthetic gas; an aroma I found so panic-inducing as a 1970’s kid.
That being said, contemporary orthodontic working practises aren’t completely infallible against exposure to angst filled situations. For example, five months ago I needed sedating on the last visit to my Leeds based dentist. This, though, not due to any treatment I was undergoing, moreover the result of a Cliff Richard song broadcasting on the surgery radio!
Going back to the topic of visiting Mr Davidson’s surgery as a nipper, I’d be lying to say I remember trips to the Geordie tooth ninja (as no-one ever called him) with fondness. However, time can be a great healer, meaning I now attempt to take positives from those traumatic childhood experiences. One of them being, as much as I hated 1970’s dental practises at least I never had to listen to bl**dy Cliff Richard during Mr Davidson’s watch!