I was thinking this morning about dentists. I’ve been going to dentists for over 60 years. After the smoking ban, I stopped visiting doctors, but carried on visiting dentists. I regard dentists as more important than doctors. One of them once told me that human teeth have the highest concentration of nerves anywhere in the body. That’s a fact that I’ve never actually checked, but which struck me at the time as being highly plausible. After all, teeth are very sensitive to pain. They’re also sensitive to touch. I can bring my teeth together so that they just touch, and I know that they’re just touching. It isn’t really very surprising to me that there is a dental profession that is entirely devoted to teeth.
And, in the UK at least, the dental profession seems to have been almost immune to the rise of antismoking in the medical profession. Throughout my life, doctors have always taken an interest in whether I smoked, although for the most part it’s been a pretty casual interest. But dentists have had no interest whatsoever. Their concern has been primarily with sugary drinks. I’ve never, in all my 60+ years in the dental chair, had any lecture on smoking from any of the many dentists I’ve encountered.
Until a couple of years ago, when a young dentist started giving me a lecture about smoking and teeth and gums. I say ‘started’, because I pretty rapidly interrupted to ask for evidence of the claims being made.
In fact, this wasn’t the first time I’d got a lecture. For about five or six years ago a dental hygienist, while polishing my teeth, started giving me a lecture about smoking. I say ‘started’ because I pretty rapidly interrupted her, and told her she was talking nonsense. I even laughed out loud when she said that smoking was “naughty”. It still makes me laugh when I think about it today. She was stunned that anyone would answer back.
I’ve never seen her again. She was the hygienist working for my current dentist, who is a lovely old chap, with the most soft and gentle hands of any dentist I have ever known. After my little spat with his hygienist, he welcomed me with a strong handshake on my next visit. He said nothing about the matter, but I felt that he approved of my stand.
But I suspect that he belongs to the old school of dentists, and that they are a dying breed. It would appear that, after resisting the antismoking tide for some 50 years, the Royal College of Dentists (if there is such an organisation) has succumbed, and dentists are now being taught that smoking makes your teeth drop out. And that means that I should expect to get more and more lectures from dentists.
And I was wondering what to do about it. And that’s when I thought of The Letter.
The Letter would be an official letter that was to be sent to any doctor or dentist who had been identified as an antismoking zealot, notifying them that they had come to the attention of the Office of Capnic Affairs, and they were being politely requested to cease and desist from any further mention of tobacco or smoking with any of their patients, on pain of future unspecified penalties. The Letter would be sent to named medical practitioners, perhaps by Recorded Delivery. It wouldn’t be an email. It would be printed on the highest quality paper, and it would be signed in purple ink. The Office of Capnic Affairs would have its own address, and its own logo. The recipient of The Letter would learn that someone, somewhere, disapproved of what they were doing.
Anyone who was having any difficulty with a doctor or dentist could request that The Letter be sent to the offending individual. And in due course, one would arrive. In fact several might arrive, from all sorts of different parts of the world. There would be many different translations of The Letter. There’d be German version, a French version, a Spanish version, a Russian version, and so on, as necessary.
Of course, the Office of Capnic Affairs, on 255-256, Mark Twain Boulevard, doesn’t actually exist yet. Nor does its department b12, from which The Letter is sent. But if the Office of Capnic Affairs does not exist yet, there is nothing that says that it will not one day exist, at the precise address foreseen for it. In fact, I might even dare to say that it most certainly will exist one day.
The Office of Capnic Affairs could of course have its own website long before any actual office is built. And it would also have a department b12. It would have its own email address. Any email sent to it would receive an automated courteous response. It would have its own newsletter reporting the appointments of new General Secretaries, and the retirement of old ones, and perhaps even a few obituaries. There would of course be photos of its extensive offices on Mark Twain Boulevard.
I could elaborate further. But the idea is only a few hours old. Anyone who has read Eric Frank Russell’s Wasp will understand what’s being done here.