Don’t chew Ice. That’s what I was doing when my tooth broke. It split off like a piece of fire wood. It was a perfectly good tooth with no cavities, fillings or anything. It broke at an angle from the middle of the tooth angling down to just below the gum line. This was alarming, but I didn’t worry. I mean after all, I’m not living in Alabama or some third world country. This is 2013 and I live in the modern world in a metropolitan area near a major medical center. I called for an appointment at the dental school. When my day rolled around, I went in. They sat me down in the chair and looked at my tooth. They scratched their heads and got several other people in progressingly more senior positions in the school to come by and “take a look-see” in my open mouth. Eventually, they transferred me to the “faculty dental facility” which was geographically the same area except down one floor. Once there, a group of much older people stared into my mouth and wrung their hands. Eventually, someone said, “Mr. Taylor, I’m so sorry, but we can’t fix this. It’s broken too badly. It seems that the proximal side is sheered off below the gum line and too close to the bone to be appropriately repaired. I suggest that we pull it out and then work towards getting an implant. We will get you an appointment with the oral surgery department. We can’t do anything else here” Well, I was shocked. I could have gotten this from my sister, the veterinarian back in Alabama… for a whole lot less harm to my wallet. And she would have, at least latched onto it with a pair of pliers and given it an honest try before simply giving up. Once the sucker tubes were removed from my mouth, “OK, now what are you going to do.? I mean, what’s the plan?” The faculty dentist said, “we simply can’t do anything with this. I’m sorry. As I said, we’ll refer you to an oral surgeon.” Just great, another two weeks with a half a tooth to send shock waves down my spine every time I drink anything that is either really hot or really cold.
The two weeks eventually went by and my day in the (surgical) spotlight eventually came. The oral surgeon sat me in the chair. It was strangely a lot like my tooth guy back in Alabama. He took a sharp pointy thing and jabbed it down into the gum line of my bad tooth. When he heard my toes curling under, he pulled it out and said, “hey, is this a little sensitive?” I nodded vigorously although he could clearly see that sweat was already beading up. He poked around a little more with his pointy thingy and eventually gave me a shot of lidocaine to numb up the general area. After my whole head on the port side was numb, he latched onto it with his pliers and began to pulling. After a minute or two he looked at me and said, “hey, this thing is really in there… I think I’m gonna have to break it up and take it out in pieces.” What?… Why does everyone want to share their feelings about this kind of thing. I’m not necessarily that squeamish, but what ever happened to just doing the work in silence? Please just get it done and spare the finer details of exactly how you plan to go about it. He took his drill and cut some holes into the tooth. Then he took a little chisel called an “osteotome” and a little hammer. A few dozen raps with the hammer and I heard a grinding sound deep in my skull like one of those old doors opening in an Indiana Jones movie. I figured that the tooth was breaking up like an asteroid on re-entry. I could still smell the smoke and taste the char from the TPS drill. Then he took a little pry bar with a little cup on the end called a “Curette”. He pulled and pried with this instrument. He had a scrub nurse help hold my head and jaw. As I soon found out that my neck muscles were not as strong as I thought when my whole head would involuntarily cant to the side he was prying towards. By now, the dentist was sweating almost as much as me. The scrub stuffed a few pieces of radio-opaque gauze called “Raytecs” into my mouth. She explained, “this is to keep tooth fragments from slipping down your airway and causing you to choke.” Remember what I was saying about … please spare me the gory details about my broken body parts and the inherent dangers? And why can’t these people just do their work…. well, ditto again.
Eventually he said, “Hey, I think that was the last piece. Wow, that was a hard one… Hey, you know you have the most horrible roots system that I have ever seen down there.” Just great… ditto again on the TMI. Then he put a few stitches in to close up my large gum hole after his mining expedition and gave me some gauze to bite on. The doctor handed me a pain pill Rx and the nurse handed me my jacket. As easy as that, I was off. Thank goodness.
It is said that health care costs are spent 80% on the elderly. Well, I believe it. It’s hell to get old.
On the upside, when it comes to dentistry, all the hammering, and prying, and sweating, and having extra people just to help hold the patient still… It kinda made me a little homesick for Alabama