Saturday, 18 July 2009

I surrender to the dental authorities ... and other confessions

My dental X-ray - it's all about what goes in my mouth

I've been really shit at doing this blog lately. I'm sorry ... I'm so sorry.

Fellow porn fans may think I've been hard at it, with an almost daily piece of meat on the digital slab, but those were pre-loaded last April, before I realised they'd be pretty alone on here

Anyway this post you're now reading is meant as something of an update on the state of my health, especially since health is currently becoming a major pre-occupation as swine flu surges.

You may recall I chose to cut my alcohol intake just after Easter. That was dutifully followed by five whole weeks of sobriety. Once I'd satisfied myself that I didn't chemically depend on the drink, I felt OK to go back and try to find a 'sensible' level - much more difficult than just not drinking, which is damned easy if you're not addicted, and I had just demonstrated that I wasn't. So I underestimated the task and had to get a little outside help to get a framework together.

This mainly consists of being given the safe limits for male adult drinking and then noting the units marked on the cans and bottles I buy, plus realising what triggers me to reach for an alcoholic drink, so that I can somehow diminish, counter or avoid them. Again that written down looks fairly easy BUT the maximum units is 21, which is roughly two bottles of wine in seven days and however you calculate with your particular tipple, some daily rationing or not partaking must go on. I'm now pretty sure most regular drinkers haven't done the arithmetic and might be shocked if they measured their own intake. If your own is regularly over 50 units a week (the serious risk on the scale) I'd advise getting some similar help, though if you occasionally clock a few units over 21 don't beat yourself up.

You also find cost becomes quite a factor in all this too, and realise how we are encouraged to buy in bulk where the bevvy is concerned - it was certainly why I used to buy Diamond White in 2 litre bottles. Whereas the glam blue plastic bottle is £3.07 currently, each individual 440ml silver can in 4-pack is £2.07 if you buy less than 4 (strangely even the 4-pack itself is £3.64 for 240ml less). So basically you have to go for 'small portions' that you not only like the taste of, but you are not going to be ripped off buying.

On a slight tangent here, I wasn't convinced of the recent SNP plans for minimum pricing on alcohol, but I agree in principle about making sure multiple packs always cost the same amount as single units. The jist of the current proposals would be to put up the price of the 2 litre bottle, but surely the fairest way to the same goal is to bring down the price of the 500ml can to £3.07/4? Nobody loses. Sure it looks like I'm saying here that cans should be 52p - crivvens! But that amount of the same stuff already is 52p and people are buying more of it than they really want.

Anyway, I've come down to three default 'safe' drinking patterns for me. The first is to pick two nights that I'll have a bottle of wine. The second is to pick three nights I'll have two bottles of (Asda Extra Special Vintage 500ml) Cider - these are £1.25 for a 3.5 unit bottle. The third is not to drink at all, which ironically feels like cheating the system. Possibly because no arithmetic is required.

I've also experimented with those mini-bottles of wine, notably when I 'fell off the wagon' in Fort William during my holidays, but it's quite difficult to stick at one or two - I find wine the most 'more-ish' and fastest units downed of my tipples.

The 'no arithmetic' option 3 is becoming more common for me. For reasons I will soon explain, I had to be put on a course of antibiotics on the third of July, so was obliged not to have any alcohol for those seven days. But I downed any alcohol anyway since the previous Saturday. Indeed, when I finished the course last weekend, though I had a rather naughty blow-out involving slightly more than two bottles of wine I haven't had a drink again since. It's just what's happened - no signifcant willpower or sacrifice - and equally if I drink today or not I'm not too bothered either way. This is where I want to be, drink-wise.

If the threat of swine flu and the trials of alcohol reduction were not enough, I'd had a particularly long bout of toothache during June. Having not had a dentist since I came back to Scotland in 1999 (and was last seen by one three years prior to that!), I've just been grinning and bearing it as my teeth have grumbled and crumbled over the years. The occasional toothache usually lasts no more than one day or night and I'm quietly hoping the nerves are quietly dying. However, in June it was more than ten days with some sort of pain, sometimes sharp, sometimes dull. I actually said to several people that was the final straw and I'd have to get an emergency appointment. When I did say, the next day it was gone again and I thought, 'Phew- that was close'. But only a few days more passed and it was back with a vengeance on Thursday the 2nd. I dosed it with the max amount of paracetemol and managed to sleep through to morning OK. Gone again I presumed when I woke up with no pain, just a bit of a fuzzy, buzzy feeling in near my jaw. It was when I looked in the bathroom mirror I realised I'd not swallowed a gobstopper in the night - I had an abscess!

This time it really was the final straw and I made an emergency appointment that afternoon at Lynebank - I didn't even think we had a dental hospital in Dunfermline. Because of the abscess and the complication of having to check my blood INR was below 4.0, I could only be examined, be prescribed the antibiotics and be sent to get an x-ray as some surgery to the gums might be needed. I think there may have been one tooth in my nouth that was passed as healthy when the dentist was spouting away that upper/lower dental lingo to the nurse, but the headline diagnosis was I needed six teeth pulled, just for starters!

Initially I was meant to return the following Friday afternoon to get the first extraction, but my INR count was inexplicably high (my sexy pharmacist could only guess it was the infection itself causing my blood to thin) and so it happened yesterday. I was in double stress about how much it would hurt and how much it would cost, especially since the last time I had teeth out was decades ago. I was relieved to discover it would only be £11.44, and when the tooth was pulled it was so swift and painless I had to ask the Polish lady with the pliers 'was that it?'. Mind, there was only a sliver of it left above the gumline - the rest are more substantial. And next time I'm getting two out at once - on the 31st. Plus I don't know when they start putting stuff IN.

I celebrated with an over-elaborate (see below) and over-priced (£2.95) mocha in Debenhams cafe on the way home. They call it mocha 'chocolate soup' but I'll know better next time - the only suitable place from which to lick spray cream and molten malteasers is a willing sex partner.

Anyway, just to be needlessly patronising for a second time in this post, if you are in the same position I was and need dentistry doing, just go. Well if you qualify for the NHS anyway - the financial pain is a lot greater otherwise. Only one warning to beware, the quick-acting anaesthetic meant absolutely no pain in the chair, but when it wore off a couple of hours later you need drugs. The pain was as bad as last month's toothache, and I actually had to retire to bed without seeing the second live "Big Brother" eviction show (catching the 1pm repeat shortly) and didn't have a good sleep even then. Suffice to say, the paracetamols are still at hand.

Here's where I cleverly link the two topics to finish the post...

One of the things I've noticed very clearly since cutting down on the booze is that I'm eating and drinking more unwisely. Unwisely night be the wrong word - childishly is closer.

As I lived through the 90s and noughties I'd gradually educated my brain and palate - as many of us have - to healthier, low sugar, low fat choices. Though this was also when I picked up the unhealthy drinking habit alongside (I think we kid ourselves this is a Mediterranean diet of sorts). I still don't touch cheese, but just because I can't stand it, not because of the fat content. And my default is to buy semi-skimmed milk, decaf coffee and wholemeal bread. Admittedly before the squeeze on the booze, I discovered last year I did still enjoy full fat milk and sugar with corn flakes and I even started adding salt in cooking every so often. Recently I even bought butter for the first time (creamy, salted stuff at that)!

I've never resisted chocolate, but in recent months fizzy drinks, cakes and sweets have become as much a part of my intake as they were in my primary school days and I don't need to go anywhere near a scales to know I'm putting on weight. This is somewhat unavoidable with the drinks - generally I'm substituting a fizzy alcoholic drink (cider) with a non-alcoholic one. Though I don't know whether it's better or worse to have moved from the non-alcoholic bottled spritzer I was using to just plain Asda cola. It's the diet, no-sugar, decaf label but only 47p per 2 litre bottle so I have my doubts.

But I've no idea what has so gravitated me towards mint-imperials, cup-cakes, danish pastries and suchlike. I even have a huge portion of iced coffee cake by me at this very moment.

Has cutting down the alcohol made me crave other unhealthiness and can I expect to get very well known to my dentist from now on, if not the local weight-watchers?

Is this my mid-life crisis or is that my growing neurosis about it all?

If I grew a beard would I make a good bear?

All these questions and more will surely not be answered in my next post, whenever that will be.

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