Ask people to name the worst pain they’ve endured and a high percentage will give toothache that honour and perhaps mostly from childhood.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Ouch! ... My childhood could have been worse, Wikipedia encourages with this illustration of 'A wealthy patient falling over because of having a tooth extracted with such vigour by a fashionable dentist' from 1790. Many thanks to Wikipedia
These days perhaps many won't know the experience because very luckily they belong to those who had the good sense to be born after the days when dental surgery was, well, sobering.

For instance, my father’s teeth came out in his youth, as with most of his friends.

That's about a century ago now.


It seems that total extractions made up most of a dentist’s day back in his time.

I come from a, well, ancient time when family discipline approved a ‘hiding’ from fathers.

You might think that to a child awful physical attacks by an angry parent must amount to his most painful experience.

However, as severe and heavy-handed as my father was, for me and perhaps the majority, the very worst pain came via the dental chair.

Rather worse than normal

Given the circumstances, my experience might well have been rather worse than normal.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Ouch ... Perhaps memory serves me badly, but this dental tool from the 17th Century looks remarkably similar to one used on me in childhood. Many thanks to Wikipedia for the image of 'Dental needle-nose pliers designed by Fauchard in the late 17th century to use in prosthodontics.'
In childhood, the family moved to New Zealand. ‘Not emigrated,’ counselled my school teacher grandmother. ‘We paid for our own tickets.’

My father swapped his aeronautical skills from the Spitfire manufacturer to hydro-electrics and we – the family – followed him into the back-blocks.

A new town was being built close to the growing dam on the mighty Waikato River, truly in the bush, and the family moved into a just built pinewood house.

Outside, the street was still being built. It led to a shop or two, soon a cinema, and a dentist’s shop.

The worst symptoms

Children can be relied on to develop the worst symptoms at inopportune times.

Hardly had the dental place opened than severe toothache turned this normally quiet lad into a screaming brat. (My poor parents.)

It won me almost the award of the dental shop’s first patient, possibly even the dentist’s first.

I wouldn’t have been his easiest.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Extraction ... Perhaps I wasn't really treated so badly three hundred years after this farmer in the Johann Liss portrait. Well, there was a chair for a start ...Thanks to Wikipedia for the photo of 'Farmer at the dentist, Johann Liss, c1616–17'
The sight of the instruments, the look of the massive hypodermic needle, the extracting tools which resembled those found in a handyman’s toolbox hardly inspired confidence.

As I sat there, eyes like saucers, the poor fellow seemed to struggle to recall appropriate moves from the dental school, assuming such an establishment existed in the young country back then.

The experience was beyond torture. At least, my Dad’s quite rare ‘hidings’ no longer seemed quite so painful.

Trapped underwater

Perhaps it helped, too, to put on a brave face in following years when I was knocked off a motorbike more than once, roughed up by muggers, and later suffered sea-sickness more times than I recall.

And among painful experiences, I was trapped underwater as a yacht I sailed alone turned turtle in a storm.

Memory of the basic dentistry long before helped with the misery, too, of eight ghastly days on a tiny inflatable liferaft close to the Roaring Forties, surrounded by a growing crowd of large tiger sharks.

Toothache came along much later in life, too, during the imprisonment I’ve mentioned on these pages, eight years of it engineered by a crooked prosecution.

The experience was distressing, yet I’m not sure it outdid common old toothache and nor that basic dentistry in formative years.

Escorted to a nearby town

I needed a dentist. In that particular prison, it meant being escorted to a nearby town.

Providence favoured me, I believe, and perhaps even made up for unjust prosecution and punishment a little by aiming me to a real gentle, careful and expert dentist, good Joe Narcisi.

He’s been mentioned on these pages before and certainly warrants the praise.

Not only did he overlook where I had just been brought from and that therefore I might be a dangerous criminal, but resolved the dental challenge painlessly in amazing time.

Joe’s practice is a couple of towns from my address, yet he’s the expert I head to every six months. Dental pain from childhood memories? Never experienced again, thanks, Joe.

Thanks very much for visiting the mostly Tuesday and Thursday blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory, which are introduced each time on Facebook Facebook dot com/Sailingtopurgatory and on Blogger,

Joe Narcisi
Wikipedia: Dentistry

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The blogs for Sailing to Purgatory are introduced on Facebook and Blogger.