Become a fan of h2g2
Many believe a dentist to be someone who you ask to inflict pain on yourself, to relieve you of a massive chunk of your wages, and then who you thank for doing so.
Of course the dentist is doing this to save your teeth - those most valuable tools in your mouth. This is because in modern society so many of our foods are processed and are full of sugar. And this sugar we consume by the truckload. With all these truckloads of sugar being delivered to our factories for our consumption, if it wasn't for the dentists, we would all probably lose most of our teeth by the time we were 30.
Sugar is a choice treat for the bacteria that live in your mouth. As the little devils gobble down the goodies, they secrete acid which begins to bore into the tooth enamel. The dentist's technical term for this is 'caries' but in plain English it means great big holes are forming in your teeth. If left alone, you won't feel anything for a few months, but then the bacteria will bore all the way down to the nerve. You will then feel a lot of pain.
The procedure for dealing with caries is as follows. At the dentist, you will first need to have a needle stuck into your gum to inject anaesthetic, to numb the tooth in question. Then an electric drill will clean out the hole. Finally the hole will be filled with some material, such as silver-amalgam.
Unfortunately the procedure has its problems. First, the needle sticking into your gum hurts a bit. Then there's the drill; that can hurt a lot too. The trouble is that the needle doesn't always numb the tooth properly, so you can be lying there not feeling the drill one moment, then suddenly feel as though someone has stuck a 10,000 volt electric cable into your tooth the next. Unless your country has a good national health system, you will then likely be relieved of a significant sum of money. Finally you will be walking around feeling as if half your face is missing for the next couple of hours.
That is for a simple filling where the bacteria haven't yet reached the nerve. If it reached the nerve you will need an annoying thing known as a 'root filling', whereby the entire nerve is removed from the tooth. This will involve multiple sessions of the above discomfits, as well as at least the equivalent of $US250 cash.
Believe it or not, all this is a vast improvement on the dental treatments of the past. 'What dental treatments?', you may ask. Exactly. In the past if someone had a sore tooth the only cure was for the local blacksmith to yank it out with a pair of pliers. Even today this procedure is sometimes still needed. Additionally, there was no anaesthetic. The first dentists tried laughing gas, which caused patients to giggle hysterically at the beginning of treatment. Unfortunately at the end of the treatment they were all screaming with agony.