My gelak with Doktor Gigi.

.I’m extremely grateful to the Malay language(s) for a good many words and phrases that strike me as more expressive or onomatopoeic than their equivalents in English.And perhaps my favourite of these is ‘Doktor Gigi’.

Because it not only sounds less forbidding and more fun than ‘dentist’, but saying it, as also articulating the word ‘gelak’ in place of the English word ‘laugh’ does, actually forces one’s face into a smile. Which is great by me, as there are few appointments with destiny that make me feel more down in the mouth than those for having my teeth attended-to, or, in other words, attacked with sharp metal implements

.Or that’s how it usually goes. But, having just returned home from having a pre-molar extracted, I’m inspired to express what a comparative giggle this experience was, thanks to my current Doktor Gigi and his gila nurses.Their willingness to have a laugh with me always makes the dreaded dental ordeal far less painful/sakit than it would have been in strictly serious and straight-faced circumstances.

Thus once again demonstrating the effectiveness of so-called ‘bio-feedback’, the ability of physical activities to affect our minds and emotions, as in that the arrangement of the facial muscles to simulate or mimic a smiling expression can actually cheer us up.

Admittedly a visit to the dentist/Dr Gigi may have been even more of a giggle back in the old days, way back before even my time, when the only available anaesthetic was nitrous oxide, better known as ‘laughing gas’.But, as much of a scream as it apparently was to inhale, and as many otherwise screaming patients it may have helped, nitrous oxide has long been superseded by safer if far less entertaining local anaesthetics.

Which in my extensive experience are almost as painful when being injected as the agony of the drilling, filling or pulling that they’re meant to prevent.And after the event, as here and now, the persistent numbness makes it a bit of a pain, metaphorically rather than literally speaking, to control one’s mouth movements.

Plus, to add insult to this injury, we’re supposed to strictly follow a set of post-extraction rules, including no drinking of alcohol, no smoking, no drinking of hot liquids or eating of hard foods, and no strenuous physical activity.A list that, as far as I’m personally concerned, seems to permit only writing, as long as I’m extremely careful not to hit the keys of my laptop too hard, or sleeping, as long as I don’t do so too heavily

.But let me get back to the point of this short piece, which is to celebrate the gift of the word ‘gigi’ for which I’m so grateful to Malaysians in general and my Ipoh-born wife in particular, as it has since made my visits to the dentist, despite all the gagging and gargling still involved, so much more of a gelak and a giggle than previously.

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