ITV's documentary The Dentists pinpointed its greatest weakness when it declared that going to have your teeth fixed was "the nation's biggest fear", Mark Jones's film immediately excluding viewers averse to the high-pitched whine of a dental drill.
Apparently, children in the North-west have the worst teeth in Britain and, filming at the University Dental Hospital in Manchester, Jones found several spectacular examples of juvenile tooth decay, including Callum, who needed nine baby teeth extracted. Nine! His mum was in bits, but that didn't stop the narrator rather gleefully intoning that "Callum is paying the price for all those sweeties."
As we all know, tilted back in a dentist's chair while offering up your gaping gob is not the most dignified of poses – even less so when the dentist insists on cracking "jokes" to put you at your ease. There was an instantly recognisable scene where gag-meister dentist Eric sedated Belinda with "happy juice" and told her it was "a cheap Friday night". During extraction, he dusted down what sounded like a well-worn line about a molar "hanging on by the skin of its teeth". Belinda laughed her socks off. No she didn't, she just lay there twitching in terror. That's the thing with captive audiences – they make you a lazy entertainer.
The main problem with The Dentists was the lack of variety – we were either in the waiting room or in the dentist's chair, the only time the documentary left the hospital being to follow June home with her new dentures.
After 10 years of only being able to chew mushy food, June had promised herself a bacon sandwich. "If you have your own teeth you don't think about it," she observed from gummy experience.
The Dentists may not have entirely worked as entertainment, but as a public information film it had its merits.Reuse content