I have long had problems with my teeth, such that, at this point in my years, there are not all that many left. Teeth, I mean; not years. Who can say about the latter? Some doctors say that dental problems are associated with the neurodegenerative effects of MS. Some say not. In any case, I have lived a lifetime of struggle with ... dentistry.
Most recently, one of my top teeth, an old root canal job, came out with a Snickers Bar, while a bottom tooth broke off at the gum-line, for no particular reason. So, it's off to Kasih Ibu and their department of advanced dental technology - on the second floor, just next to the out-of-service bathroom. The dentist is a pretty, young Balinese doctor (well, I guess she's a doctor), whom I have seen before. She speaks no English, but we make do.
First off, she replaces the dead root canal job with superglue. Although it was she who put this tooth back in its socket the last time it fell out, it does not seem, this time, to fit. But, eventually, she makes it do so.
"You have strange teeth", she says.
And now it's the turn of the tooth that must be removed.
"If you want, you can just leave it," I tell her. "Tidak apa-apa, ya."
No can do. Akan infeksi. Must go.
So she sets to work. Her assistant brings out of tray of instruments that look like an assortment of screwdrivers, icepicks and pliers.
"Will this hurt?" I ask.
"A little," she smiles.
What does that mean, I wonder. It's a relative term, right. A little - like a bee
sting, or falling ten stories, or decapitation? Which 'little' do you mean?
But I'm ready. I'm relaxed. I wait for the Novocain administration.
Which does not come. There is no needle, no little poke, no numbing sensation. There is only the jab of the icepick as she sets to work.
There are problems from the outset. This tooth just does not want to budge. She pries, pushes, wrenches and pounds, but the tooth stands its ground. .
"Hm, ga mau, ga mau," she mutters, frowning, eyes gleaming. The matter is becoming personal.
She reaches for the largest screwdriver, leans close, white-knuckled, and says something near my ear. I'm not quite sure what she has said. She talks very quietly and quickly. As far as I can tell, she has either said that it's a nice day outside or that what she's about to do next is going to hurt like a son-of-a-bitch.
Turns out to have been the latter.
Though she is prying and yanking at one tooth, it really feels as if the entire row of bottom teeth is going to pop off like a bottle cap, and leave my chin hanging in the air like the leftover strip of aluminum foil.
"Sakit?" she says.
"Yeah, a little," I gasp. And there's that relative term again.
And so she speaks close to my ear once more, wielding a claw-like metal object in her right hand. Again, I'm not sure what she has said, so quietly and quickly, Indonesian with a Balinese accent. I think she may have said, "You ain't seen nothin' yet, sucka."
After what seems hours of struggle - she grimly determined, I grimly clinging to sanity - the doctor triumphantly pulls the tooth free. I and my tooth, I think, are a milestone in her career. She admires what's left of the bloody thing at the end of her pliers, shows it to me, and then drops it into the metal basin, where it clatters like a silver bullet.
There is no tooth that can defeat this doctor. There is no tool that she will not employ.. This is the motto of Indonesian medicine. Just do it!
It's also the Nike motto, and that company has done pretty well for itself.