I cover quite a wide range of subjects here - about some of which, I consider myself to be quite knowledgable. Dentistry however, isn't one of them.
I had a tiny front filling replaced just before Christmas. The one it replaced had survived around fifteen years of apples, Thornton's toffee and unexpected date stones, so I expected its replacement to last for a similar period.
My dentist is young and obviously passionate about advances in materials techniques and technology. In a five minute session of inserting at least half a dozen pieces of equipment into my mouth, flashing ultra-violet light, beeps and whistles, my filling was in place. He then proudly quoted a passage from a supplier's catalogue, which was, essentially a twelve month guarantee on the filling. (Remember, I was hoping for 15 years). With a cheery "Happy Christmas, see you for a check up in 12 months", I left the surgery.
Five days later, the filling fell out.
I returned today to have it replaced. My dentist decided that the cavity wasn't the right shape to hold the filling securely, so decided to drill it out a little larger. "Okay", he said, "I'll just numb the gum". Out of the corner of my eye, I was aware of a syringe in his hand. I asked whether I really needed an injection. He said no, and that in Poland, people tend not to have anaesthetic - a useful snippet of information. The attendant dental nurse looked shocked that I had declined the injection.
Anyway, now I have the same hi-tech filling, though a little larger, and slightly less tooth than I had earlier this morning.
There was no mention of a twelve month guarantee.
As I left the surgery I thought back to the days when teeth were drilled at slow speed with a blunt drill bit, attached to a contraption that looked as though it was made from Meccano. The days when nobody had ever heard of local anaesthetic. The days when fillings were mixed in a small pot and applied with a spatula and wiped smooth with a damp piece of cotton wool. The days when fillings lasted fifteen years or more.
Were those days so bad?