My dentist, who I trust implicitly, casually mentioned during a recent inspection that I had cracked a back molar.
Agreeing to have the tooth repaired, I made a series of appointments, blissfully unaware the procedure would cost the equivalent of what I once paid for a Morris Minor car.
When facing oral surgery, I can modestly claim to be a tough guy, having been weaned on primitive dental equipment, such as foot-operated drills, at naval school where only sissies (a term once popular for boys unclear about their manhood obligations) pleaded for a shot of cocaine before the drill-bit exposed a raw nerve.
Unlike today's dental surgeons, who carefully cosset you through any pain, our school dentist was a Royal Navy warrant officer who usually commenced procedures by barking at quivering lads entering his surgery, warning that blubbing in the chair would be rewarded with a punishment charge.
My enduring memory of such experiences is not of excruciating pain, but the smell of burning tooth, reminiscent of cordite, and the distinctive gin-enhanced breath of the dental officer, who enhanced his surgical procedures by constantly rebuking the patient for being so troublesome.
I clearly recall one poor unfortunate undergoing a double tooth extraction, who failed to meet the dentist's strict anti-blubbing instructions and ended up being punished by the duty Petty Officer.
The poor cadet was forced to run in full kit around the gunnery field, holding a rifle above his head and still clenching cotton wool between his teeth.
It was hardly post-operative treatment as practised in our enlightened era.
Meanwhile, back in today's world, my dentist started by soothingly whispering to me that he would rub anaesthetic cream gently into my gums so I wouldn't feel the prick of the hypodermic needle that followed. I laughed and hoped his actions wouldn't turn me into some sort of sissy, of the sort we were direly warned about in my navy days.
I even fell asleep during the 90-minute surgery, which suggests that visiting a dentist today is not the traumatic experience of yesteryear.
Leaving his chair, I congratulated myself that I was still that tough guy from way back - until I reached the reception desk and saw the invoice for my gold crown insert.
It took all my self-control not to start blubbing.