‘D’ had terrible teeth. Not only were they broken, but they were also worn down in such a way that they looked like an aged rodent’s teeth.
He had worked for many years in a place where there were high levels of atomic radiation. Naturally, he was concerned about how much radiation he had been exposed to over the years. On one of his many visits, he asked me somewhat irritably: “How many more x-ray pictures do you need to take?”
I replied: “I have enough pictures to take out your bad teeth, but not enough to save them.”
D seemed reasonably satisfied with my answer. At least, he never raised the subject again.
Some weeks later, D’s wife, who was also one of my patients, asked me why her husband had to make such an enormous number of visits to my surgery. I explained that the repair work was extensive and complicated, each tooth requiring several appointments. She replied quickly:
“If he were a dog with so many problems, I’d have had him put down ages ago.”