It was the usual dental check-up, albeit in a recently-smartened-up surgery with pale blue walls and an anodyne picture of a calm sea, unblemished, golden sands and a cloudless sky to calm my nerves.
Although in fact I was feeling fairly calm already, having finally got over my childhood memories of every visit to the dentist involving several fillings, occasional extractions and a great deal of pain. (I blame the soft, Cornish water – but possibly also the fact that I preferred the Food Office’s thick, bright orange juice to the milk which I swapped with our neighbour’s son.)
The dentist – charming, soft-voiced and, naturally, perfectly toothed – was doing the usual probing check around my mouth. “One, two, three present, four missing, gap closed..” a bit like a primary school teacher marking the register. Then, “Oral hygiene,” he said, politely lowering his voice, “moderate.”
After all those lengthy morning and evening sessions with the electric toothbrush? The tepees – pink, green and, for the widest gaps, grey… The pressure on the gums with the special brush recommended by the dental hygienist… Those six monthly visits to the dental hygienist, in fact!
All that effort! All that expense! To be awarded a miserly ‘Moderate’.
I felt the same as I did at school, when the imaginative, carefully-structured essay on which I had spent half the weekend, confidently expecting it would be read out to the class as an example of how to write, was returned with a scrawled ‘C+ Watch your spelling and punctuation,’ in red ink.
I don’t get marks for writing – or anything else – any more but ‘Could do better’ for dental hygiene is a bit of a blow.
And it still hurts.