Happy Talk

Without the dentist, the next best thing is gargling salt water

There are many things we can delay during lockdown – a haircut, a makeover – but it’s hard to put off the dentist when an infection flares, writes Christine Manby

Sunday 14 June 2020 21:53
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Illustration by Tom Ford
Illustration by Tom Ford

Lockdown has meant that many of the services we used to access outside the home have had to become DIY. We’ve all got used to cooking all our own meals again, instead of heading for a cheeky Nando’s when inspiration fails to strike at the fridge door. I’ve found joy in cleaning my own windows (though only until the sun shows up the streaks). Many people have taken a crash course in cutting their own hair. I can manage a passable manicure these days, even with my left hand. But there’s one area of personal care where most of us hope never to have to do it ourselves. That’s dentistry.

When lockdown began, dental surgeries closed along with everything else. But dental emergencies continued to arise of course, and, unlike an overdue haircut, they could not be left unattended.

Two days into our time of confinement, my friend developed a problem with her molars. A piece of trapped food (she suspected) had given rise to a nasty infection in her gums. My friend’s dentist referred her to another surgery run by the same private medical firm. They referred her straight to NHS 111. Three hours on hold to 111 later, my friend was told her only option was to go to the dental department at a nearby general hospital. By now it was late afternoon and the hospital’s voicemail advised her to try calling at eight the following morning in the hope of getting an appointment at some time in the next few years. At eight the following morning, the hospital’s phone was already engaged and remained so for hours on end. All the time, my friend’s agony was increasing as the infection in her gums raged. So she took matters into her own hands and turned to a distinctly medieval solution. No. Not the pliers... She began to use a salt-water gargle.

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