A wave of nausea sweeps over me. It lingers its persistent grip on my stomach. I feel like it’s being turned upside down. I dry my sweaty hands for the fifteenth time. Despite my efforts to breathe deeply, my heart is racing. I was hoping for a friendly acknowledgement from the guy sitting opposite me, but he keeps his eyes firmly fixed on a business magazine. Who am I kidding anyways? Had he lifted his gaze, he would probably have thought I was flirting. This is Finland.
I am spending the Bank Holiday Monday at the dentist’s. I’ve travelled from London to have my teeth checked in Helsinki. Yes, it’s crazy. Almost as crazy as the irrational fear I have of dentists. I would love to avoid seeing dentists altogether. They are no tooth fairies. However, I force myself to go regularly. It’s my mother’s doing. She always stresses the importance of good dental hygiene. So. All my adult life, I’ve been going to the same dentist. I’ve lived in Korea, Denmark, Sweden, England and other parts of Finland, but every year, in fear and trembling, I come to my dentist in Helsinki for a check-up. She recognises my dental phobia, takes it seriously and is very kind. For a dentist, that is.
This time, my dentist is unavailable and I’ve made an appointment with a different dentist. Disaster! I’ve thought about cancelling. About not showing up. Reason has won. So far I’m confronting my phobia. I’ve made it to the waiting room. Sitting here, nervously, I think back. I have not flossed. Well, actually I did floss, for a period of an entire week, after my previous visit to the dentist. I still have that economy bag of dental floss picks in my bathroom. I could have eaten less sweets. And fruit. I know it’s bad for my teeth to eat fruit throughout the day. I go and brush my teeth once more.
The smiling dentist greets me. There’s some chit-chat. You can tell he’s studied in Sweden. Some more chit-chat. The dental nurse joins us. I’m lying down in the chair. I’ve opened my mouth a dozen times already for nothing. Just start and get it over with. Before I run out. Finally, he gets down to business. He checks my x-rays and starts the dreaded check-up. It seems to take forever. He’s not saying anything. He must have found so many problems that he’s too embarrassed to give the verdict . Root canal treatment. For sure. Hours and hours of it. Come on, spill it out. Finish the job. But no, he’s already begun cleaning? He gives me a breather every few minutes or so. And then I’m done. For another year. Peace of mind about my dental state achieved by conquering my fear. Ok, I had to pay €170, too. I’m waiting for the tooth fairy to reimburse that.