Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Practical magic

It should be no secret to anyone reading this that I'm beginning to get a bit long in the tooth. If I were a horse I'd be well along toward the point where the driver of the glue factory truck would start slowing down to see if I'm ready for pickup each time as he goes by my pasture.

But I'm not a horse; so today I paid a visit to Dr. Mindicino down in Trooper for some practical magic. I've been going to Dr. M for almost thirty years and I still have in my mouth every tooth I had when I started seeing him every few months for a cleaning and check-up. He's drilled and filled three or four of them, and he's capped one that cracked, and he's even excavated one out so an associate could root canal it. But he has never removed one. And he's done all that with a minimum of fuss and an amazing minimum of pain. If there's a Hall of Fame for dentists Dr. Mindicino will deserve a place in it when he retires, which will hopefully not be soon.

None of those other things he has done impressed me as much as today's magic. Today he tuck-pointed the sides of two of my teeth where the gum had pulled away. He numbed one side of my mouth, then he roughed up the surface of the teeth, then he plastered on a nice neat covering of new fake enamel to protect the area where the gums would be if I weren't getting especially long in those two particular teeth. He finished by using a star warsy sort of ultraviolet light gun to harden the plaster, and then he smoothed it out so the enamel on the two teeth looks just like was always been an eight of an inch longer from crown to gum.

Setting aside the matter of fact sculptural artistry with which Dr. M shaped the new fake surfaces of the teeth, and the no-nonsense way Dr. M and his assistant did all of that work within a bare hour from the time I walked into his office, the chemistry and physics of what he did is astounding.

Somebody had to think up how to formulate that plaster so that it could be spread on easy like clay and then harden super hard like tooth enamel under the influence of a light pen that has to be safe to shoot around in somebodies mouth. That now hard plaster has to bind to the sides of those teeth strongly enough so the forces I'm going to unleash on it when I crunch hard pretzels tonight won't break it loose. And it has to expand and contract at the same rate as the natural tooth material under it when I slurp some too hot soup despite Linda's warning and then quench the burn with a quick draught of cold water or ice cold diet Mountain Dew.

Somebody else had to do all the improving that has occurred over the years around the unpleasant subject of the numbing that has to happen for such dental work to be feasible. I can't quantify this but I remember some pretty big and pretty painful needles being used by the dentist when I was a kid. That's all in the past. Dr. M now puts a couple of peppermint flavored sticks next to the tooth and lets then sit a couple of minutes to numb things up. Then he uses a little needle which barely pinches going in, and he must numb things up with little squirts as he advances that needle, because the whole process is nothing, nothing like I remember from long ago.

We live in magical times.


Anonymous said...

Recently I was in the dentist's chair and had that same thought about it being way less scary than it used to be. I enjoyed a pleasant conversation, was numbed, had a wisdom tooth removed, paid a reasonable price and was in my car, pain-free, all in a matter of about 20 minutes. Oh yeah, and my dentist told me I had "good, strong enamel," which is always nice to hear.

Sully said...

A very long time ago they removed four of my teeth to make room to straighten the others. I remember that dentist pulling and levering with what seemed all his strength at one of those teeth. I also distinctly remember the crunching as the tooth broke away from the bone.