Well, it’s happened again. Another molar cracked...then shattered. Verily, I am disintegrating.
Of that, there can be no doubt.
Sometime in the coming days I will be fitted with yet another crown. Another glint of gold when I smile. That’s neither a horrible fate nor a tragic handicap. It’s just a golden smile and I can deal with that (as long as I don’t encounter some crazed Midas in a dark back alley in remote Romania brandishing a sturdy set of vise-grips)
Once again, a dentist will set up shop within the confines of my gums. I guess you could say that I am quite conversant in the ways of “modern dentistry”. My education began quite early. My teeth fascinate me (in ways only teeth can). My upper incisors are identical to my father’s. My lower incisors mirror my mother’s. Unfortunately, my mother seemingly passed along a “cavity” gene. You see, her teeth disintegrated rapidly...as did mine. A credible argument may be made that her condition (ergo, mine) reflected a half-decade of malnourishment (prior/during/after my conception
). That’s quite possible. Even my “baby teeth” crumbled to dust before they could be ejected. Oh, yes. I met my first dentist early.
I’ve ALWAYS benefitted from advances in dentistry. Granted, my first recollection of a dentist’s drill is of a Rube Goldberg contraption consisting of pulleys and frayed, braided cords that whirled, twisted and screeched valiantly to spin the satanic device we call a “drill bit” sans benefit of a cooling water spray or the blessed relief of a nerve block to mask the pain. Modern dentistry in the 1950’s left a bit to be desired. Still, it was better than hand-augers, pliers and awls, no?
I was told I have a “high tolerance for pain
Things got better in the 60’s. Oh, my teeth were rotting as fast as ever...faster... encouraged (in no small part) by poor eating, sleeping and dental hygiene habits. My wisdom teeth had to go...and fast!
I’m tearfully grateful for the anesthetics and the pain-killers. Truly, tearfully grateful.
The 70’s were more my style. I had a dentist who piously subscribed to the “no pain
” school of dentistry. He would slap a nitrous oxide mask on me before I even settled into the chair. He’d administer a topical anesthetic before he injected the “juice”. He had me in stitches before the third injection could even take effect. He was THE FUNNIEST human being I have EVER met. I laughed my way through cleanings and fillings, even easing up on brushing and flossing so that I’d have an excuse to pay the man another visit.
Change comes, as change must. I found gainful employment in another suburb far, far away. It was then that I stumbled into the office of a kindred spirit. A dentist my age, who loved music first and dentistry second. I felt right at home. He was a “conservative” man, less apt to toss around drugs like party favors. OK. He wasn’t perfect. But he was diligent, meticulous and conscientious. He played a five-string banjo in a band. He wore a silver bracelet (as do I). We’d talk about music and playing in bar bands and we’d laugh at all the shared memories, as we filled, capped and crowned our way to friendship.
Fast forward to the present. My musician/dentist/friend retired.
I moved far, far away. My dental hygienist found a new home in a “modern” dental practice consisting of a quartet of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young dentists. I remain loyal to my hygienist who’s scraped and vaporized and buffed her way into my affections over the course of a decade. She knows my story. I know hers. She’s seen me with short hair and long. As a powerful professional and as a lost soul.
I drive two hours to see her every four months. After she is finished purtifying my smile, she hands me to her young dentists and they go to work with their modern methods and modern tools. I feel no pain.
I feel no connection.
I had my teeth cleaned just a week or two ago. Had a coupla fillings replaced, too. I didn’t know that silver/mercury amalgam fillings have given way to chemical resins and UV hardening! Cool. My amalgam fillings are about ten years past their “past due” date, anyway. I’m going epoxy!
Well, long story short, I’ll get to see my hygienist and my “wet-behind-the-ears” dentist, again, this week. I’m sure I’ll walk away non-plussed. Life has gotten easy (within the confines of my mandibles, anyway).
Just one more thing...I mentioned to my young, bright-eyed dentist that I kinda missed the nitrous oxide.
“Well, you know
...” intoned my highly-trained professional, “no matter how good the mask, the nitrous oxide still escapes...and dentists ended up inhaling that stuff all day long
* * *