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A Christmas tooth fairy

Only Phil's dentist sister-in-law was able to save him from a holiday of seasonal misery.

It was Christmas Eve and I was eating a corned beef sandwich. Oh dear. I've already depressed myself. Has it come to this? Christmas Eve is a day for bunking off work, for skating down the ice slide with the local urchins, Bob Cratchit-style with scarf a-flying, saying ‘God bless us, every one!', drinking punch (whatever that is), and eating roast chestnuts round a flaming brassiere. Or failing that, a brazier.

However, I was eating a shop-bought corned beef sandwich at my desk and looking at blood test results. I was just getting absorbed in a particularly fascinating prostate-specific antigen result when suddenly a small bomb went off in my head. There was a crack that reverberated round my skull like a lightning bolt, and a jolt of electric pain.

Excavating the suddenly horrible contents of my gob, I found two solid objects; one appeared to be a bit of bone (bone? In corned beef?) and the other was what I shall choose to call a cusp from one of my teeth. I'm not absolutely sure it's called a cusp. It was a corner bit. Teeth are the one bit of the human body that I'm not expected to be knowledgeable about, so I rather cherish my ignorance.

But on Christmas Eve it was suddenly and very pressingly my problem. Gently exploring the area with my tongue, I found a jaggedy razor-sharp enamel stiletto that was already, even after a few seconds, starting to lacerate my gums. Within minutes I could detect the taste of blood. A staggeringly miserable Christmas awaited me unless I could somehow find, register with, and make and attend an appointment with some local dentist. Usually these things take weeks, if they are possible at all.

However, this is where foresight comes into play. I pride myself on my common sense and sound judgment in having both a sister and a sister-in-law who are dentists who work locally (I heartily recommend this to any reader who hasn't done it already) and within half an hour of the corned beef insult I was being pressed into a recliner and having my pain eased by my sister-in-law, lovely woman that she is.

Back at work an hour later I suddenly found unexpected reserves of sympathy for the dental emergency that attended my surgery that afternoon. Previously, I am ashamed to say that I had had little time for the toothache merchants, up to and including holding up flashcards saying ‘DOCTOR' (pointing at myself) and ‘DENTIST' (pointing out of the door). But this punter got the VIP treatment. First I checked he didn't have a sister who was a dentist (he didn't, the silly sod) then I said: ‘Pain, is it? Oramorph is what you need!'

He left the surgery somewhat dazed, but in possession of the materials to make his Christmas somewhat more bearable, and I had the satisfaction of easing the totality of human suffering, just a little.

We're not dentists. We're not trained to treat dental problems. But we have to remember that dentists are all venal bastards (apart from, obviously, the two who are related to me) and it's easier to have an audience with the Pope than it is to get a dental appointment on Christmas Eve. So give 'em a decent painkiller. It's the humanitarian thing to do.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

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