You go to a dentist, you expect them to have a perfect smile, right? Not me. I should have known what I was getting myself into. Who accepts a friend’s recommendation for a dentist knowing that they call him ‘Bucktooth’? I just didn’t think it through.

I realised how right the name was as soon as I sat back in the chair and looked up at his face full of gnashers. His two front teeth really did protrude over his lower lip. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought he was doing it on purpose.

“Ok,” he said, putting the gas mask over my mouth and nose. “I’m going to turn the gas on now. You shouldn’t need much, but some people have mild hallucinations. Just sit still and it’ll all be over before you know it.”

I tried to nod but the gas was already filling my lungs and my whole head felt light enough to float straight up and through the ceiling.

“You know,” said Bucktooth as my vision blurred in and out of focus. “In cultures as far apart as the Native Americans, the Ancient Celts, and the Aboriginal Australians, there was a belief that substance induced hallucinations are nothing to do with you seeing things that aren’t really there. They believed that hallucinations are actually a completely new reality that you just haven’t seen before. Open wide for me.”

I stretched my jaw open with a half smile as his head started to look like it was changing shape, stretching and then narrowing at the sides. I was struggling not to laugh.

Bucktooth started the drill up but carried on talking over the noise.

“If you have any pain just let me know ok? Actually, there is a lot to be said for taking ancient legends seriously. Too many get recast as fairy tales and flights of fancy. There’s a truth in all things, if only you can find it.”

I grunted in delirious agreement.

“Are you ok? No pain? Good. Take the tooth fairy for example. You know she’s real too, right? Not that you’d recognise her story if I told you though. Who knows anything about her other than that she likes to get her hands on teeth?”

I was struggling not to laugh from the gas alone. Together with the ever changing shape of his head and his wild ramblings I could hardly contain myself.

“You’ll have to keep still,” he said. “Kids all come in here asking about her like she’s some friendly little butterfly, but they don’t know what she’s like. Far scarier than the ‘bogeyman’. She’s terrified me for years.”

He switched from the drill to a mean looking hook thing in one hand and his tiny mirror in the other.

“Started out, I was the one who got the kids hooked on chocolate. Now that was my first love. You know, chocolate is the one addiction that no one ever talks about treating. It’s a treatment itself. That’s why they call it a treat. Just look at anyone who ever gave up smoking. They all turn to chocolate at some point and wind up putting on weight. Chocolate is the methadone of the masses. And chocolate eggs are simply magic. Everyone likes to break into a chocolate egg.”

He switched again to a pair of pliers and gave me another burst of gas before continuing.

“It doesn’t take much pushing to get kids hooked on chocolate when you’ve got Easter on your side. And so here’s those kids, clucking for chocolate every single day, intensifying the child obesity problem, and still eating through their teens and right into adulthood. They’re rotting away their teeth the whole time, and who’s lurking in the shadows? That’s right. The Tooth Fairy.

“These days I pull twenty teeth or more for every thousand eggs that get eaten and every single one of them gets sent straight to the Fairy’s tooth reclamation plant.”

He pulled hard and then dropped a pre-molar into his little metal dish as he spoke, sending a lightning bolt of pain right up the left side of my head.

“They separate the enamel and the dentine, combine it with an ethanol solution, and ship it straight to Santa’s workshop as a cheap glue for toy manufacturing.”

I must have frowned because suddenly he stopped pulling on my next tooth, stood back a little, and looked kind of angry.

“What? You don’t believe in Father Christmas now? Right,” he said, shaking his head and reapproaching with his pliers aimed at my mouth. “So you’re fine with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, but Santa’s too much for you to handle, huh?”

He tugged hard on the pliers and pulled my lower right wisdom tooth clear of the gum, root and all.

“Actually, Santa and the Tooth Fairy thought up the whole thing together and took it from being a small time syndicate to become a global operation they call ‘The Family’. It was Santa’s own elves that nearly brought the whole scam down though. A few years ago Interpol sent agents to infiltrate some of the family’s biggest sugar snack suppliers. The Witch of the East nearly got to the heart of the Lollipop Guild but one of the Munchkins caught on and had her crushed. A whole team managed to gain entry to another factory but Willy Wonka and his lieutenant had their team of Oompa Loompas take out the agents one by one. The whole operation seemed watertight until Interpol caught on that the family’s henchmen were all three foot tall.”

The haze was starting to fade and suddenly Bucktooth’s stories didn’t seem quite as funny as they had. They actually seemed kind of weird. I guess he must have clocked my changing expression though because he twisted the valve on the gas cannister and slapped the mask back over my mouth as he continued talking.

“They sent some of their ‘smaller’ agents straight into Santa’s workshop and started to pick apart the whole gig from the inside out. No one even realised when they planted a new reindeer with a blinking tracker in its nose.”

He pulled the mask away again, leaving me with a maniacal bloody grin.

“Luckily enough, one of Santa’s more senior little helpers clocked the new faces and they pulled him in on Christmas Eve. Chatty they called him. Quite an appropriate name because he gave up the rest of the Interpol team in under an hour. Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey, Bashful, and Doc all escaped from Lapland before the elves could get to them and were last seen heading for a safe house in the dark forests. Oops,” he said. “Bit too much blood there.”

He dropped another tooth in his metal dish and shoved his vacuum sucker into my mouth, clearing out the excess claret. Then he gave me another hit of gas. It was really starting to take hold and the longer I looked at his head, its shape contorting like a reflection in a hall of mirrors, the more it looked like his eyes and ears were getting bigger whilst his nose and chin were getting smaller.

“Of course, when they tortured Chatty for everything he knew they didn’t meet with much resistance. He said Interpol already had everything they needed for a Boxing Day raid and the Family had to switch everything up right on the busiest night of the year. Santa and the Fairy had a major falling out and before everyone else knew it they all had their duties changed. As for me, I went from being at the head of the chocolate division of Sugar Snack Supplies to pulling teeth for a living. Do you have any idea how humiliating it is to dig around in other people’s gums with teeth like this?”

He was really starting to freak me out, but the way his ears seemed to be growing right up towards the ceiling had me mesmerised.

“That’s why I said I’m doing things my way from now on. Screw working all year round. I’m going back to my one day a year gig. So long as I get enough teeth, the Fairy doesn’t give a crap. That’s why I’ve go to work fast, you know?”

It was only then that I looked down as he dropped one more tooth into his dish. It was full. I was sure he’d only taken three or four, but the entire dish was full of bloodied teeth. I jumped to my feet and pushed him back, grabbing his tiny mirror and checking out my naked smile. It was empty. My entire mouth was empty.

I looked up at his furry little face and quizzical grin and then ran for the door.

“Brenda!” he shouted from behind me. I raced down the hall and round the corner just in time to see a huge nurse step out from behind the front desk. She must have been six foot six and at least 18 stones but scariest of all, she had the biggest syringe I’d ever seen in her hand, full of god knows what and ready to go.

“Who the hell are you people?” I shouted, stopping dead in my tracks.

“I’m the fucking Tooth Fairy,” she said. “But it’s Nurse Claus to you.”