Hells Teeth


1st June 1982

Attend doctor's surgery to obtain signature on piece of paper stating that I am in reasonable health and can therefore be employed as a school crossing patrol officer, or "lolly pop man".

15th April, 1985

Visit dentist during college vacation. He suggests that I need " a couple of small fillings"

1st March 1985

Miss appointment for good and adequate reasons.

October 1988

Move to York to study for MA. Make mental note to register with dentist and Doctor.

April 1992

Move to Coventry to work on Gamesman magazine. Make mental note to register with dentist and doctor.

October 1994

Move to London to work for Hogshead publishing. Make mental note to register with dentist and doctor.

September 1996

Move to Bristol to work for Hothouse creations. Make mental note to register with dentist and doctor

June, 1st 1997

Join gym. Instructor informs me that I have high blood pressure, and need permission from doctor to start exercising.

June 2nd.


June 3rd:

Develop chest pains. Develop ruddy complexion. Wonder if yellow urine is symptom of imminent death from heart failure. Wonder how you get doctor. Wonder if absence of notes and fact that I have not been to a doctor for 15 years means that I have inadvertently left the National Health Service. Wonder if my 5 - 10 years of remaining life is sufficient to write great novel, or even minor one.

June 4th

Walk into surgery. Make appointment.

June 20th

See doctor. Get poked. Doctor says. "Yes. You have high blood pressure. You weigh as much as you do, of course you have high blood pressure. I should join a gym if I were you."

June 21st.

Think, "That was easy. How much harder can going to the dentist be."?

March 1st 1998

Walk past "City Centre Dentist, Your Friendly Local Practice" on my way to work. Think, I must drop in there and make an appointment

March 2nd 1998

Walk past "City Centre Dentist, Your Friendly Local Practice" on my way to work. Think, I must drop in there and make an appointment

March 3rd 1998

Walk past "City Centre Dentist, Your Friendly Local Practice" on my way to work. Think, I must drop in there and make an appointment

March 4th 1998

Walk past "City Centre Dentist, Your Friendly Local Practice" on my way to work. Think, I must drop in there and make an appointment

(Repeat for four years.)

March 13, 2002, Friday

Wake up with mild toothache. Take aspirin. Go back to sleep.


Wake up with severe toothache. Take aspirin. Go back to sleep.


Wake up with severe toothache. Take aspirin. Fail to sleep due to thumping sensation in rear wisdom tooth akin to someone attacking skull with pneumatic ice pick.


Experiment with

A: Violent tooth brushing such as to turn mouth into bloody pulp.

B: Swilling highly expensive antiseptic mouth was around mouth.

C: Chewing sugar free gum

D: Swilling cold water around mouth.

Latter seems to have some effect.


Visit City Centre Dentist.

Discover that this is a private practice, and that "affordable private care" involves undertaking to pay them around £40 a month for the rest of my life and that in any case they won't take you on if you're teeth are not in good condition. A bit like the gasboard, really: they won't come and fix your boiler unless you take out a maintenance plan, but they won't sell you a maintenance plan if there is anything wrong with your boiler.

Look in Yellow pages for NHS dentist.

Take aspirin.

Go to bed, and dream about news item from last year about man who died of an overdose of painkiller due to having a terrible toothache and refusing to go to the dentist. Think of Henry King who died from chewing little bits of string. Resolve that I will not go down this way. Consider making living will in case toothache is untreatable.

Wake up with searing lead drilling agony.

Check Internet.

Discover existence of Bristol Dental Hospital where, if you are in pain, they will allow students to experiment on you, free of charge.


Very early.

Attend Bristol Dental Hospital.

Fill out form.

Where it says, "Would you describe your pain as mild, moderate or severe" I come over all English and write "moderate."

Am told that they have enough guinea pigs for today, but that if I come back at 5.30 there is pain reduction clinic.

Swill more cold water.

Am informed that the new "NHS Direct" clinic has a "Drop in Dental Access Centre" where a real fully qualified dentist without an appointment can treat you. This is a new system introduced by our tireless and saintly prime minister whose public spirited commitment to giving all citizens better services knows no bounds.

Attend NHS Direct. Am given appointed for 5PM that same day, leaving me with about six hours to kill. An afternoon of agony stretches out before me like a trackless desert wasteland, or, more precisely, like an afternoon in  Bristol with a bad toothache.

It is two hours since I took my last aspirin, which means that there is a whole two hours before I can sensibly take any more.

Swill cold water.

Go to library.

Swill cold water.

Discover that, since my last visit to library, all the books have been taken our and replaced by coffee shop, Internet café, etc.

Discover that hot coffee cannot viably be used to treat toothache.

Chew books.

Swill cold water.

Attend dentist.

Sit in waiting room. Go into shock. Discover that "dental phobia" and "not getting around to it" are more closely related than I had hitherto admitted to myself.

Wonder why there are no back issues of "Punch" magazine in the waiting room. Realise that this is because "Punch" magazine ceased publication some years ago. Find that "Readers Digest" does not serve to make me less nervous.

See dentist.

Discover that

1: The dentist does NOT say, "You are an extremely wicked boy for letting your teeth get into such a state, the tooth fairy will be putting coal under your pillow this year."

2: Current dental practice requires the patient to wear goggles.

3: I have an overwhelming gag reflex when having X-rays.

"Oh", says the dentist, "You have a little hole in that wisdom tooth, we'll have that our, you don't really need it."

Sensation of cracking bone, pincers, etc, highly disturbing, but as the dentist keeps intoning "No pain, just a little pressure, no pain, just a little pressure" I have to admit that she is in fact telling the truth and it doesn't hurt significantly.

Dentist gently suggests that I should make appointment with real dentist for a full check up, and gives me list of local surgeries which are taking on new NHS patients.

Return home with wisdom tooth in upper pocket, bleeding gums and numb cheek. Tooth does, indeed, have a massive hole in it. Resist temptation to put it under pillow. (Richard Dawkins, please take note.)


Feel fit enough for solid food.

Remark to Colin in coffee shop. "It is now 5 o clock. I have been talking to your since 3. It was my intention when I set out to register with a real national health dentist for a full check up. The fact that I have not done so is purely due to the surgery now being closed, and not at all due to phobia, which I have now fully over come."


NHS dentist closed, so not possible to make appointment


Lords Day


Need to attend Job Centre due to current state of unemployment, so scarcely worth diversion to make appointment for full dental check up


Up too late


(Continue indefinitely.)