Saturday, May 21, 2005


It's little wonder that, after submitting this morning to the dental hygeinist's little probing and scraping ice piculums, I would be contemplating the sharper side of the natural world.

Humans are, of course, amalgams of hard and soft, of sharp and dull. Teeth rise up out of tender, pink gum-cushions, and are full of red, living pulp. The problems arise at the interfaces.

As the hygeinist scraped, and I rinsed and spat the usual sin-of-floss-omission red, I noticed a white cloth toy hanging from the dental light: a tooth, a bicuspid, upon which someone, well-intentioned I'm sure, had drawn a big broad fuzzy smile. In red ink.

I have to tell you I said, wiping the pink froth from my lips with the dental bib, that tooth has an awfully bloody looking smile. Maybe it's just the context...

The hygeinist laughed. Most patients, she said, think it's cute. She'd had one other patient, though, think of blood.

Just one ???

I lay there too incredulous to feel pain. There's nothing -- I repeat NOTHING -- about dentistry that's cute. Except for my endodontist's yellow mini-cooper convertible, which is damned cute.

So, anyway, it seems poor tooth # 12, tooth of many recent endodontal tribulations, is afflicted with "pockets." Deep ones. (Like the ones I'm going to need rectify the situation.) Which probably means it's fractured. Which cannot be proven without a periodontist. Who will need to do "surgery" in order to find out.

Surgery ?

Why do they insist on calling it surgery ?

Surgery is when they take out your spleen, or your aneurysm, or a piece of your LUNG, for goodness sakes. Couldn't they just call it a "procedure" ? Or, even better, "a little procedure" ?

And after this "surgery" if they DO find a fracture, the tooth must go. Immediately. Or there will be "bone loss." Which could affect the adjacent tooth. And after the "extraction" ? Bone grafts. Implants. Bridges.

Which brings us to one of DK's favorite Mr. Natural riffs:

Where does it all end ?

In the grave, son, in the grave.

Never mind that tooth #12 currently feels fine. Chipper, in fact ! Top notch ! First rate ! Best it's felt in years ! Man'o'man just bring it on: taffy, jawbreakers, tofu jerky ! It's ready to take on the world !

Doesn't matter. There are...pockets.

Suddenly tooth #12 is feeling a little poorly.

Green-around-the-gills. Rashy. Hypoglycemic. Chlorotic. Neurasthenic, even. Afflicted with a case of the vapors. It collapses, moaning softly, onto its pockety pink pillows, asking for cool compresses for its fevered crown.

And I, ever the obedient custodian of my failing cusps, lie back, close my eyes

and open wide.

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