I have excellent teeth, my dentist uses these words, she says "Sarah, you have excellent teeth." I have never had a filling. I went to my dental hygienist recently - Daphne. She performed her cleaning ritual, which was brutal, as always. She uses a sharp hook to scrape away most of my gums, placing her knee on my chest for balance. Afterwards my teeth feel squeaky clean but they don't feel very firmly attached to my head. She asks questions about my life while holding my tongue down with a tiny mirror on a stick. "Oh you live in Dublin, hmm? My husband and I went to see Phantom of the Opera at the new Grand Canal Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Fabulous. Have you been?" I try to shake my head and say "nnhghg nu naah-", "Ah-ah" she cuts me off, "don't try and speak". She hooks her hand around my top teeth and prods the roof of my mouth. She pulls my head back for a look. "Spongey gums, Sarah," she says, frowning and poking her hook deep into the delicate flesh around my teeth. Spongey gums? This apparently grave condition needs to be rectified as quickly as possible by poking a hairy rubber stick through the gaps between each tooth twice a day or my teeth will fall out. Excellent. Thank you Daphne. "Brush until you bleed, Sarah, focus on the gums," she tells me handing me some complimentary toothpaste.
Then I go in to see the dentist: 2 cavities, all of a sudden. Two? What? But I have excellent teeth? "Yes, I must say it's very strange Sarah, has there been any change in your eating or drinking habits?" I avoid her gaze and quietly mumble that this year I started drinking Diet Coke. She pushes her chair back and looks at me like I've just swallowed her car keys. What are you doing? You never tell the dentist you drink Coke. She slowly pulls the plastic mask down from her face and holds my gaze. Then she says quietly that only after 7 years will we know the full extent of the damage I have inflicted on my teeth. This is how long it will take for the consequences of my disgusting habit to fully manifest themselves. (Oh holy god.) Then as punishment, she gives everybody a sticker except me.