“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.