Monday, 7 May 2012

 It Shouldn’t Happen to a Sailor (6): Taking DIY Too Far

OK, I have to own up here. Previous ‘shouldn’t happen’ postings have been about other people. This one is about me.

About twenty years ago, I bought a little 19ft Seawytch sailing cruiser to keep and sail at Kielder Water a huge lake in Northumberland UK. Kielder is the largest man-made lake in Europe set among pine forests close to the Scottish border. It was a high altitude windy location and the lake was large enough to allow serious waves to develop, so sailing there was not dissimilar to sailing a Scottish sea loch.

I’d bought the boat from a military guy who did everything by the book. The boat was crammed with gear and equipment, carefully maintained, all shipshape and Bristol fashion. If I had one minor criticism it would be that the previous owner had ‘over-stocked’ the inventory. There was enough anchor cable to secure the boat to the bottom of the deepest Atlantic trench, and the anchor and kedge were large enough to hold a small battleship.  The range of flares stowed aboard exceeded the ‘off-shore’ requirement and the fenders, when not in use, filled the entire forward cabin. 

The fact that the boat was equipped more for an ocean voyage than an afternoon sail around the lake was particularly evident when the first aid medical pack was opened, the quantity and range of equipment in there would have put a military field-hospital to shame.  It even contained a DIY dentistry kit, complete with instructions on how to extract or fill your own tooth.

What's in your kit?
My problem began at the start of the long Easter weekend break, four days of public holiday, a period when most dentists and pharmacies were closed. The start of the break coincided with a dull ache in an upper right molar, a tooth which had shed part of its filling a few weeks before.

Yes, I should have gone to my dentist immediately, but I don’t like pain and dentists scare me. Anyway loosing the filling hadn’t resulted in immediate pain so I presumed it didn’t matter.  Well it did matter, because while friends were away launching their boats for the coming season and enjoying an unusually mild and sunny Easter Saturday,  I was sitting at home, morose, nursing an ever worsening pain in the jaw.Then I had an idea, I could fix the problem myself using the DIY dentistry kit on the boat. 

To fill your own tooth, the instructions said I had to wash my mouth with a pink solution from the kit. Then I had to take the cotton wool (supplied) to pack between my tooth and cheek, thus drying the area and protecting the rest of my mouth. I then had to heat up a small piece of metal (looking suspiciously like cold solder). I managed this by putting it in a spoon and holding it over the gas cooker. The next bit was more tricky. Somehow I had to get the hot amalgam from the spoon to my tooth. In the end I achieved this by taking a fork from the kitchen drawer, bending all the tines back, except one, dipping the remaining tine into the metal and then rushing the fork into my mouth to smear the metal over the hole in my tooth. It was a long operation and I managed to miss the tooth on several occasions, the result was that I had several pieces of metal attached to innocent teeth which had required no treatment. Worse was to come however. When I attempted to remove the cotton wool, I discovered that it was stuck fast. The metal had effectively glued it to my tooth.  My DIY efforts had given me a furry tooth and the pain hadn’t diminished, if anything it was worse. To add to my woes, sharp bits of metal were cutting into my tongue and all the prodding and poking had made my jaw more painful than ever. 

After a stiff slug of Whiskey, I managed to file away the bits of rogue metal, but the only way to dislodge the cotton wool, was to take the fork and dig out the metal filling the hole. Painful slow work which was not 100% successful. Significant tufts of cotton wool remained firmly attached.

There was nothing for it but to make an appointment with a dentist. He looked at my mouth and listened to my explanation for the wool and bits of shrapnel he found in there. He then left the room and returned with a colleague a few minutes later, wiping his eyes for some reason. The colleague took a look made a choking kind of noise and left the room.

It took about an hour for the dentist to clear the cotton wool and iron from my mouth and then he dropped the real bombshell.
‘Well that’s tidied up the mess. Nothing wrong with the tooth by the way, never was.  It’s a gum infection. It can easily happen, take these tablets that’ll sort it.’