Two weeks ago, my dentist (yes, he's mine, he's too good to share ;-} ) drilled out a huge hunk of disintegrating silver amalgam from a lower front molar in preparation for yet another manufactured tooth. I think that gets me down to just a crooked little picket fence of bottom teeth, and maybe about 4 others, that are original issue from the gum up. All the other teeth are gold crowns or porcelain caps cemented onto some mighty stubborn roots, although most of those have been gutted by root canals. (see diagram A). By the time I'm done, my genetically worthless teeth will have become the best part of me, sturdy and hale, while the rest of me falls apart.
I began my life terrified of dentists. In the fourth grade, whenever my mom told me I had an appointment after school, I'd run away from home. Not so far that my father couldn't find me by driving around the block a few times and ordering me into the car when he spotted me hiding behind a tree. My panicked escape was understandable. At the time, Novocaine was just beginning to make its way into the profession and our dentist didn't believe in using it. Yes, way back in the mists of time. And there was so much work to be done; Dr Hart had a long list of cavities to tackle. Dr Hart, my mom would say, flicking an inch-long ash off her Chesterfield, I'm not sure he has one.
Perhaps Dr Hart wasn't comfortable about being able to administer the proper amount to children, or maybe I was just too wiggly for him to get a good purchase on me with a needle in one hand. Anyway, the body memory stayed with me for a very long time, even after I went to many (hundreds, it seems like) other dentists and Novocaine became an essential of the procedure. All my adult life I've avoided making appointments, missed them, reset them. When I did get into the chair, I made sure I was numbed to my eyebrows.
Today, I got the double-crown glued on (without Novocaine, too -- no drilling!) and I feel ready for another 50,000 miles. I bless the advances of the dental profession and the excellent technique and skills of my dentist. But it's only the first installment, And so, bit by bit, the re-build begins.