"My Dentist Saved My Tooth, But Wiped My Memory”



The internal clock of a British man named William is eternally jammed at 1:40 p.m. on March 14, 2005 — right in the middle of a dentist appointment. Since then, he’s been unable to remember anything for longer than 90 minutes. Every day, his wife writes detailed notes on his smartphone in a file labeled “First thing — read this.” How could minor dental work have affected his brain in such a profound way? The doctors initially suspected that he had reacted badly to the anesthetic — causing a brain hemorrhage — but they failed to find evidence of injury. The obvious explanation would have been that William had a form of “anterograde amnesia,” but brain scans showed that crucial areas were still intact. One possibility is that William’s amnesia is a “psychogenic illness." Some patients report memory loss after a traumatic event, but that tends to be a coping mechanism to avoid thinking about painful past events and doesn’t normally affect your ability to remember the present. Doctors are still working to unravel William’s mystery, but for the time being his case helps to remind us just how little we know about our own minds.