If you can bear it just a bit, no more than a sharp jab, then I will not use local anaesthesia, Dr Devaiah told me as he got ready to yank out the half-loose tooth. Besides, he added reassuringly, it will hurt you as much if I were to inject the anaesthesia.
By now I had learned to expect the unexpected from the young Kodava, who combined the discipline of medical science with the daring-do of his martial clan and agreed to go along. He had triggered my ego and I told him proudly how the late Dr Murthy had similarly told me when I was up for my first cataract operation that if I didn’t blink and lose my nerve, then he wouldn’t use local anaesthesia. He hadn’t and I had my vision perfectly restored.
The wrench was sharp, but its impact was gone before I knew it. What remained was a dull throb. Then when my ego was about to hit the roof Dr Devaiah explained that, of course he had applied a bit of anaesthesia topically (with a swab) and the person who had really earned his respect was the lady who was a firm practitioner of vipassana (a form of meditation) and had two infected teeth extracted in one sitting, sans anaesthesia. Hers were not even half-loose like yours was, he added, putting me down further.
Suitably impressed, I asked how, as a medical practitioner, he had gone along with her wish; so much could have happened. Then he repeated what I had picked up form our various conversations over 10 years: “I am a great believer in the power of the mind over the body.” He didn’t shove his beliefs and philosophies down your throat. He was remarkably catholic. Believe in whatever you like, but have the strength of your conviction and I will go along with you a good part of the way. He wanted to harness the self-healing powers of the body that a person with firm beliefs could call up.
Demystifying things further, he explained that I would not feel much pain for a little while after the extraction because when the body suffers an injury there is a window during which pain or inflammation does not set in, as the body produces its own anaesthesia, endorphin.
Such it has been with every visit to Dr Devaiah. I learn something as he uses all the tools of modern dentistry stacked in his clinic and chats away on issues that extend the horizon. It all began when he advised me on my first visit to apply on my gums a traditional product called Gum Tone. And, believe you me, it has been so palpably effective that I have since then come to have a high regard for his ability to cross narrow dogmatic boundaries and help me save a tidy sum staying away from modern pharma companies’ over-the-counter mouthwashes and gels.
Dr Devaiah’s desire to be different and innovate has launched him on a venture that should make him the first in Bangalore to do a part of his regular practice out of a mobile dental clinic. Why don’t people go to a dentist before things get bad? It was expending the time and the hassle, more than anything else, he reasoned and sent out a questionnaire to his patients asking what if his dentist came to him rather than the other way round.
He targeted the HR departments of mainly large and small software companies in business clusters and offered to park his van (designing and equipping it was a journey in itself) if they would let their staff come for a preventive check-up and then treatment if necessary.
Initially it took several interactions to gain an entry. Today, after around eight months and examining 3,000 patients and treating 900, the word has spread. All it takes to get an appointment is a phone call. Targeted at the educated technocrat, the service is not free. The examination is, but treatment, if needed, attracts normal charges. He feels the patient’s gain is enormous as proactive care is so much better and more affordable than corrective care; the latter costing as much as 90 per cent more. The biggest gainers can be those who are firmly told to change their ways as there were preliminary signs of what could lead to cancer.
Tooth extracted, and five more minutes spent on seeing a presentation on his laptop on the coming global water famine prepared by his nine-year old son as a school assignment, I walked gingerly down Brigade Road looking at the shop windows and smiling to myself thinking that most were so scared to visit the dentist.