The midnight drill

On call with an eleventh-hour savior for supermodels, Secret Service agents and anyone else with a late-night toothache.

On call with an eleventh-hour savior for supermodels, Secret Service agents and anyone else with a late-night toothache.

On the late-December day the Mayans predicted the world would end, thirty-four-year-old, six-foot-four-inch Dr. Isaac Datikashvili is going about business as usual, looming over a reclining sixty-something tax attorney with a handlebar mustache. Datikashvili prepares to perform an emergency wisdom tooth extraction on the crumpled patient.

10 tips to help you prepare for a medical emergency in the dental office
Emergencies in the dental office: Are you ready?

“Looking forward to this?” a confident Datikashvili asks, smiling.

“Like the plague,” the man grunts in reply.

From behind my splatter-proof face-gear provided by dental assistant Gladys Montalvo who is Lilliputian next to the towering dentist, I observe as Datikashvili wiggles the problem tooth with sundry metal instruments. Blood leaks from the surrounding gums. Things don’t seem to be moving, but the dentist is undaunted, motioning me closer for a better view.

It’s late in the afternoon on the Friday before Christmas, but it might as well be the middle of the night. The small Gramercy office that Datikashvili (pronounced Dah-te-ka-shve-lee) operates out of is always open. He shares it with a colleague who works typical dentist hours, but Datikashvili has a less forgiving schedule—he’s always on call. While there may be other emergency dentistry options in the city—Datikashvili says he cannot provide an exact figure on the number of practices like his—you’re hard-pressed to find another free agent who offers emergency care any hour of the day or night. Datikashvili is perhaps something of a big city luxury. Many patients wind up in his office because they put off getting help until the last minute, when the pain becomes unbearable. According to Datikashvili, this phenomenon stems from a deeply ingrained dental phobia, a fear that’s implanted during childhood when kids typically experience some sort of traumatic—and occasionally anesthesia-free—procedure. This is especially true for people from foreign countries, Datikashvili says.

Read more from Narratively.

More in Restorative, Cosmetic, and Whitening