Pain is relative … Leaving the pain behind.

“Do you understand that pain is relative?

There’s something I’ve more closely noticed about peoples’ lives within the last few months. I’ve noticed how misery is caused by a sundry amount of ways and how it is extremely relative. I’ve known this all along but lately I have had more experiences and interactions with people to help me better understand what I know as ‘relative pain.’

Pain is something everyone shares. Everyone knows what pain is. The degree at which people understand it varies, though. Pain is relative. I have been able understand this when I noticed how tendetious people were when I shared my pain the best I could with words. I explained that although I didn’t really go through any physical abuse, rape, alchoholic parents, divorce, etc., I was still in pain. I am tired of always having to explain relativity to people when I tell them that I am simply miserable because of my perception of things. It is how I perceive life that makes it so meek and undesirable for me. Anytime I explain that I’m miserable or suicidal I always hear about how someone’s cousin or sister or uncle somehow has it worse. Do you have any idea why they seemingly have it worse? That’s right; the physical aspect of it. They had physical problems that you can see. Perhaps they were abused as a child, raped, had a problem with alchoholism or drugs, or something of the sort. Perhaps they had to file bankruptcy, or their spouse left them, or maybe they lost their child to a drunk driver. Any of those examples would definately sound worse than Tom Davis’ “I feel suicidal because of the way I perceive things.”

So what I try to explain to people is that it’s not fair to make an assessment about how much pain someone has gone through based on physical aspects of it. I am proof that you need not go through tramatic experiences to know suffering. While you think about that, think about this: Why are people miserable when they are beaten, substance abusers, rape victims, lose a family member, lose their finances, lose their job, etc.? The answer is because they value those things. Those things are important to them. So for me, those things don’t really hold any value to me, so ofcourse those things wouldn’t provoke much pain upon me. However, it is because I have no values, or rather, that my values are unachievable, that I feel so miserable.

We mustn’t forget that pain is relative and so a rape victim arguably could’ve gone through less pain than a man who just lost his job. It’s a matter of how one handles it and perceives his situation. If you disagree with this, do you sincerely disagree or are you just bias against my contention because I am seemingly belittling the severity of a rape case? My intention is not to demean or devalue the severity of any crisis, but rather, to let it be known that we must not take things for face value which would make us judge degrees of pain. Don’t be fooled by circumstances to tell you who has gone through more hell than someone else. Let’s not forget that it’s not a competition about who goes through more pain, either. If it is, I hope I lose every time.” Link

Pain is relative indeed. Different individuals have different threshold for pain. There are many types of pain – emotional, poverty, deprivation or physical etc. I think physical pain is the worst. I’ve gone thru most of them. But toothache is the most irritating and annoying of all physical pain. The persistence gnawing pain could be a shattering experience.

I have yet to experience immense physical pain. If you watch the movie “127 Hours” – Link based on a true story where a hiker was trapped by a huge boulder in an isolated mountain canyon. He had to self amputate his arm in order to free himself and went trekking for another few miles before help finally arrived. What about those victims surviving thru untold physical suffering in our worst industrial accident known as the Spyros Explosion Link or the Hotel New World collapse? Link

The most fearful pain I had experienced is not toothache really. I could bear with it even though my whole face would go numb and I could not concentrate or stay focus throughout the whole day. It is the fear of the tooth extraction pain I fear most. Many years ago, about 5 years ago I think, I had a huge molar wisdom tooth which was situated at my lower left corner jaw “dug” out! Yup, it was dug out! That resulted in my extreme paranoiac phobia of visiting a dentist.

All my working life, I have only been to one dentist i.e. Nanyang Dentist at Geylang Road. My late grandmother, parents, brother and his family etc all go to that dentist. We have been their customers since the dentist’s father’s time. The current dentist now in his middle age has taken over from his father’s dental practice. It’s a case of father to son dental practice so to speak. When I was a school boy, we used to have free or very heavily subsidized dental treatment in the school. I remember Bartley Sec Sch had a dental clinic and another at Margaret Drive in Queenstown. Not anymore. If you need dental treatment at the polyclinic or SGH, it’s going to be a long queue with months away before you finally get to visit the government dentist. Apparently, government has zero priority on dental care for its citizens.

Let me relate my last and final unforgettable dental experience at Nanyang Dental. Actually, the dentist is a nice chap who likes to chat about current affairs. Whenever I visited him, he used to comment that the talented especially our children should study well and later in life join the ruling party as an MP, serve 3 terms and then retire with a life long comfortable pension. The same story repeated each year when I visited him. Of course, we know that there is no longer any pension scheme in the civil service. Even ministers do not have pension anymore.

When the dentist examined my wisdom tooth on my lower left jaw, he told me it had to be extracted since it’s decaying and causing the excruciating pain. He would just extract without any need of surgery. After few injections on my gum, he waited for a while for the medicine to take effect. Supposedly to be swift and fast but unfortunately, it was a difficult extraction resulting in so much pain. I had to hop from one dental chair to the next and back to the original when he started working on my wisdom tooth. It seemed that my tooth broke and the other half got stuck deep inside. Oh no, he then started digging and drilling for the other half tooth buried deep inside my gum. I was bleeding profusely and he started mumbling that I had very strong teeth. The pain was unbearable despite the local anesthesia given. Maybe due to the prolong time frame of extraction, the medicine effect started wearing off. At one point, I nearly fainted there and then. What a langgar situation.

From that day onwards, I developed an intense phobia visiting the dentist. Even as I passed by the dental clinic along Geylang Rd, I involuntarily shuddered with fear! When I asked him about the other two wisdom teeth on my left upper and right lower jaw, he referred me to another dentist in City Plaza saying that surgery might be needed. I was left with only two wisdom teeth then. He could not perform any surgery as he’s not qualified. I did not know that some dentists could not perform surgery. I subsequently went to visit that dentist at City Plaza. He’s an old dentist with posh setting in the dental clinic. I had to pay $50 for less than 30 mins of consultation. He told me that depending on the nature of my wisdom tooth extraction, it could be in the region of $500 to $800! I left immediately after paying the $50. I then tried SGH dental clinic. They took few X-rays and told me that since there is no decay yet on my remaining 2 wisdom teeth, there is no need to extract them. I could not remember paying how much for that visit as it happened many years back.

I just told myself to brush my teeth twice daily with a good toothbrush and remember to rinse my mouth after every meal. Avoid taking sweets and other teeth damaging food such as soft drinks. Rinse my mouth with listerine every night before going to bed. All was well until the last few months when I started to experience pain on my teeth. I could not take either hot or cold things especially ice water not to mention ice cream. When I was eating a cold papaya from the fridge, I also experienced pain all over my mouth. The piece of cold papaya was half eaten with my right palm holding on my mouth to ease the pain. It was torturing over the few months. Problem is that I did not even know which of my remaining teeth is defective?

My mother advised me to visit a dentist and confirm what’s the problem. There are 2 or 3 dentists in Elias Mall. Nobody in my big group of EM frens would recommend those dentists in EM. They had their complaints and horror stories to tell. We exchange information on our past experiences visiting dentists. Low suggested going to Blk 416 AMK Ave 10. Better to go around midnite to beat the queue. There is no appointment. It’s first come first serve. Only $40 per tooth extracted! The dentist would walk around clenching and unclenching both his fists whilst waiting for the anesthesia to take effect. Really interesting habit. Low told me that the dentist extracted 2 rotten teeth at only $60. He was given a discount. Another recommended me to go Bedok North opposite the police station. It’s a little expensive but no pain at all. Whatever or where ever the dentists you may visit since there are so many dental clinics all over the place, but never go to EM dental clinics. Douglas was saying that he paid more than $150 for a filling on his tooth but dropped off after a while. Confronted the clinic and created a scene there but nothing could be done! He said no point lodging a complaint with the Dental Association. It’s wasting time only.

After months of procrastination, I decided to try a friend’s wife who is an experienced dentist. Dr Tan Gek Inn has been a practicing dentist for more than 30 years. She runs a clinic at Blk 130 Jurong Gateway Road #02-205/207 next to the CPF building above the coffee shop. Click here for the link. Thinking that a veteran with more than 30 years of dental experience, she should be extremely skillful. But then there is still a lingering sense of fear in me visiting a dentist. Anyway, I decided to take a train from Pasir Ris to Jurong East to pay her a long overdue dental visit having made the appointment two days ago.

When I arrived at Dr Tan’s dental clinic well before the appointed time of 11am, I had a heavy breakfast at the coffeeshop in anticipation of a tooth extraction where normal eating after the ordeal is near impossible for the whole day. From 11am to 12.15pm, I subject my set of teeth to Dr Tan’s professional hands. She polished and brushed up my yellowish teeth. Filled up one minor cavity and extracted a giant wisdom molar non functioning tooth on my lower right side. Net fee is $230 after discounts. She also gave me free toothpaste and brush. Gave me tips on taking care of my aging teeth. I did not experience any pain at all when she removed that huge molar. At last, I’ve overcome my paranoiac phobia visiting dentists. I promise her to visit next year for a routine teeth inspection and maintenance. It was money well spent. The fear factor after all these years is removed. I still recall myself shivering out of fear or cold when I sat in the dental chair with powerful lights shinning on my face. Quite embarrassing really to even stammer when I talked. Yes the fear factor at work. Really langgar.

Actually, there is no decay on my teeth except that cavity which needed some filling. The problem of my excruciating pain suffered over the few months prior to visiting Dr Tan was that I had gingivitis problem. It’s mainly due to the over accumulation of plaque over the years which led to sinking and soreness of the gum. The lower right side wisdom tooth had to be removed cuz it was non functioning and led to accumulation of debris hampering the cleaning of neighbouring tooth. X ray was taken to determine the nature of the wisdom tooth. It was extracted without any surgery. I’m now left with one last wisdom tooth lurking at the left upper side of my jaw. Some antibiotics were prescribed for the gum infection. I’ve just completed the entire antibiotics course.


Dr Tan advised me to take it out next year even though there is no decay since it is an useless tooth. At one point, I asked her what about that “blank file” on my lower right side jaw? She was startled and did not know what I was saying. I then pointed to her that blank file. Oh, tooth implant which is expensive and painful. No thank you. I’ll leave it as it is. Blank file is a term used in formation of a squad when there is one or two shortage of men which need to be filled up where possible. Obviously she didn’t serve NS.

A wise man in his blog used to say that human tooth will never last beyond 50 yrs. As one ages, slowly one by one our teeth will start falling until there are few or none left. Most of my older frens are using full or partial denture for eating and cosmetic reasons. Not only our teeth, but also our hair gets thinner and lesser as we grow older. Our eyesight will also not be as good as before. All these are inevitable decline in the aging process. We could only struggle to prolong those symptomatic decline and delay their onset for as long as possible. It is a never ending process in our fight and struggle to live as wholeheartedly as we turn the wheel of life. I’m referring to our short life span. Not the state. Wistfully, the state has a much longer life span than us. Many of us do not wish to see its imminent decline and decay as we resigned to our own individual karma.

I would’ve gone to visit this Dr Toothfully if he didn’t give up his dental practice. Is he leaving all his pain behind as a dentist? Click here to find out.



About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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20 Responses to Pain is relative … Leaving the pain behind.

  1. Thank you so much for your support, Gintai. I’ve now gone into semi-retirement, working part-time at other people’s clinics. This field has become very competitive and like many other businesses, things are getting ugly in more ways than one. Various attacks and backstabbing made me close down my own high profile practice at Orchard. I lower my expectations and pursue my passion now. Some people think I’m crazy, but my life has become a lot less stressful and a lot more meaningful ever since.

    • Yaw mo kao chor ah? How many of us could aspire to be like Jeffery Archer, Frederick Forsyth or Wilbur Smith where their novels sold by the millions! In our local context, if you could become another Catherine Lim, then it’s not so bad. Toothfully, I admire your courage to pursue your passion. I wish you every success. I’ll contd to read your other novels. I’ve just finished Spellbound in Chiangmai. It’s a good read. All the best to you.

      • Haha … I dare not dream so far. Suffice to say that my next book may be printed and sold in the US before coming to Singapore. I know that sounds unpatriotic, but demand in Singapore, even with the smaller population taken in consideration, is less than encouraging. And like I’ve said, I lower my expectations.

  2. patriot says:

    Sounds like You got more than a good bargain. Service provided as described took away your long lasted phobia. Not just simple phobia, it was paranoic one!
    One hour fifteen minutes for the Dentist to clean and remove a molar plus free gift of dental care products. Wow, like You to bring me there though there are no shortage of dentists everywhere in Sin.

    Read in a local Chinese newspaper that one lady was charged $650 just to remove a molar. Heard many complained about exhorbitant fees charged by dentists, however find $650 for removal of a tooth was more than exhorbitant; unbelieveable. It is equivalent to my one month’s pay as a part time worker.
    Incidents like the Said Case in Tampines, where me stays, makes me feels that profiteering happens not just in goods. Profiteering in services are getting out of control.
    Very scary to know that businesses can suka suka charge for goods and services. Not only it looks like no control, it is like there is loss of conscience in more people in Sin.


    • Hi Patriot,
      I’ve just spoken to Douglas at EM coffeeshop. I told him I quoted him in this post. He clarified that it’s $500 and not $150 as stated! He kept cursing and swearing about the exorbitant costs and the ineffective treatment. My neighbour brought his maid recently to the same dentist (it’s a chain franchise) for a wisdom tooth extraction. No surgery. Damage was $450! He also cowpehcowbu! Really langgar.

      • The costs and risks of running a dental practice have increased many times over the decades. There are now many minimum requirements in terms of hardware and continuing education – both of which are very costly.

        In the past, dentists and their patients are like friends. Problems which have been missed out were seldom followed up with negligence suits from patients.

        Nowadays, thanks to better informed patients and the ease and convenience of lodging complaints, dentists have to pull out consent forms at the beginning and would rather do extra things (like taking numerous x-rays) than to be accused of negligence.

  3. James Lim says:

    Hi Gintai,
    I really admire your writing skill and enjoy every post you made. I’m glad you’re now in business. Reading the middle of this post makes me feel like I’m on the dentist chair, having the same fear and feeling the same pain like you were undergoing. Your writing is so effective and real.
    James Lim

  4. Thank you James. I’ve been going thru all your posts lately. I must say I find them very interesting. I had lots of fun reading them. Cheers.

  5. SG Girl says:

    There’re good dentists and bad ones. Years ago, I accompanied a friend to a govt dental clinic to extract her wisdom tooth. After half an hour of unsuccessful work (I could hear the “knocking and hammering” while waiting outside), the dentist then decided surgery is needed. After the whole ordeal, she went home with a swollen cheek, a size of a char siew bao (Chinese small bun with meat fillings) that lasted a week. She later found out from friends that extracting wisdom tooth should not be that bad.

    Teeth, if one takes good care of them can last a long time. I’m glad I don’t have wisdom teeth issues. They are all intact (hope that means I’m still wise??). Am told taking calcium supplement can keep teeth healthy.

    All in all, I agree going to dentists nowadays is not cheap. To save costs (since prices of goods and services have increased), I don’t visit a dentist yearly.

    • I’m now left with one wisdom tooth. You”ve got 4 intact. Does it mean that you are wiser than me?

    • agongkia says:

      I dun visit dentist yearly like you too,but I am not shameful to admit that its because I have got no more teeth.
      Being a bogeh,I can do things that others cannot do,I can brush my”teeth ” and whistle at the same time.Can save on tooth paste……
      I extract all my teeth years ago when there was free dental benefit ,knowing that visiting a dentist can be costly years later,resulting in my employer taking away this benefit .

      • Nice to hear from you again. I know of a place where they only charge $300 for full set of denture – top and bottom. It’s proven cuz some of my EM frens done it. They say paying only $300 for a “massionate” – Upstairs and Downstairs is cheap! Let me know if you keen.

  6. James Lim says:

    Hi, Gintai,

    Like agongkia, I’m toothless too for the last 15 yrs. I can crack solid ice cube with my denture. If I meet up with you, I get details of where to get that $300 “massionate” denture. Mine is getting loose. Hope to see you soon. Bye

    • Hi James,
      Here’s the address.

      Alliance Dental Laboratories & Supplies
      Blk 1014 Geylang East Ave 3 #05-204

      I don’t have the contact number. It’s just in front of the Indian temple. No worry. The denture is tight fitting. It won’t drop at all. I’ve seen my fren using it. Very beautiful set of perfect even teeth albeit false or fake! If you pass by there just drop by to check. They are quite proud and arrogant. So don’t bargain. It’s already cheap. It will easily cost you a thousand if you do it elsewhere.

      Agongkia, Pls take take note.

      • James Lim says:

        Thanks, Pal..

      • agongkia says:

        Thanks and noted.I paid at that price too but somewhere near Little India.
        I know of someone who has gold teeth many years back.Funny that not many have it nowadays.
        Actually it can be a good investment.No money ,forget to bring wallet etc can take out one and go pawnshops.Instant cash.

        But if meet robber,cannot open the mouth.Instant bogeh.

        • Journeyman says:

          Many of my friends go to South Johor for medical and dental tourism or even car repairs and maintenance – often it is dollar for ringgit ie 2.5 times less
          Some he even gone to BKK n PEN when airfares are on special offer – maybe we sud start an information exchange and rating system

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