Adventures in 21st Century Dentistry

dental exam

Dude…Do you even OWN dental floss?

     I didn’t take real good care of my teeth as a youngster. Remember the Cavity Creeps?  “WE MAKE HOLES IN TEETH!” That was my dental situation pretty early on. I was that idiot kid that would wet his toothbrush at night and yell, “SURE DID!,” if my parents asked if I’d brushed. That master plan didn’t pan out too well later on in life, especially when I added U.S. Army dentistry into the equation.  I shudder to even estimate the amount of money I’ve spent on keeping my piehole looking pretty and functioning as designed.

     So yeah, I have alot of porcelin and silver amalgam in my head. Even have a dental implant way, way in the back. It makes me feel a little bit Terminatorish if I’m being honest. The rest of my body…not so much.   Obviously, all this china in my head isn’t as durable as natural tooth. You should see my wife’s face anytime I crunch down on some hard candy or something.  Not a happy visage. I can almost feel a telekinetic wave of psychic energy screaming, “IDIOT!” eminating from her eyes.

     My #2 top nightmare is one I call, “Crunchy Teeth.”  It got beat out just barely by the ever-popular, “It’s Finals Time in College and I’ve Only Been To Class Three Times” dream.  For some reason, that one always leaves me in a cold sweat.  But Crunchy Teeth is as disturbing as the name suggests. It’s teeth…that crunch. Ugh.

     So with choppers as fragile* as mine, it was no surprise last week when, as I was gnoshing some left-over pizza, one of my teeth (a lateral incisor for you detail-oriented folk) just snapped off at the gum line.

*must be Italian

     That moment when a crown falls off or a filling breaks is just priceless.  Kinda like that realization your car tire has gone flat. And  I always wonder…what held it in yesterday?  I root around in my mouth through a gob of masticated pizza pie and BOOP, out drops a tooth onto the plate. Oddly, it didn’t even hurt, which led me to believe I’d already had a root canal on that one.  But who knows? I lost track of that scorecard years ago.

     I rolled into my Dentist’s office the following afternoon looking like an extra out of Swamp People.  Turns out not only had I not had a root canal on that tooth, but that wasn’t a crown or build-up that had broken off but actual tooth–which is sad because real teeth are an endangered species in my mouth. It’s like when you hear about a California Condor flyling into a windmill.  Things were not sounding good.  I was picturing a $3,000 dental implant. Feeling Terminatorish isn’t remotely worth three grand.

     Luckily for me, I have a really incredible dentist.  He’s so good, he’s taken almost all of the fear & loathing out of going to the dentist.  Now the only thing I fear and loath is the bill…which is…WOW. I don’t think my dental insurance has heard about inflation. But I digress…

     Doc ends up doing a root canal on me, building up the tooth with some space-age resin (kinda like Flex-Seal but better) and inserting a metal post to hold my new fake tooth. And let me rave about this: He has this gizmo for administering Novacaine that’s apparently called, “The Wand.”  I prefer “Le Wand,” but that’s just me. No more of that stainless-steel mad-scientist syringe coming at your face. It’s this little plastic handle-looking thing with a teensy, tiny, little needle.  You can’t even feel the shot.  In fact, this root canal was so chill, I almost nodded off a couple of times during the procedure. I think it was the smell of burning tooth that ruined the vibe.  But I never felt a thing.

     Have you ever had a crown?  Remember that brown (odd choice of color I always thought) goop that they’d use to take a cast of your ground-down natural tooth so they could create the crown?  They jam those foam plates filled with cold, rubbery nastiness into your grill. Besides the awkwardness of the whole thing, the worst part was the endless stream of drool that would cascade down my chin while I waited the 10-15 minutes for that stuff to set up.  And that scary moment as you try to open, nothing happens, and you wonder, “What if they can’t get the mold out of my face?”  Well, it’s gone Baby. No. More. Brown goop.

     I faux-enthusiastically ask, “Time for the mold?” and my man says, “Nope.  I’ve got a new toy.”  He then proceeds to 3-D scan my chicklets with this little Star Trek phaser-looking gizmo.  He tells me it takes something like 40,000 pictures a second.  About a minute and a half in my mouth and he produces a quite frightening image on the laptop (Alienware, BTW–how cool is this guy?) next to the chair.

     If you’ve ever watched one of those “Making Of…” features on CGI movie effects (Gollum, Pacific Rim, etc.) you have a pretty good idea of what this screen shot looked like.  A perfectly accurate 3-D rendering of my piehole in naturally correct gum and tooth color.  Even my fillings were showing up  gray. And the image even rotates in all three dimensions so you can experience the grossness from all angles.

     It really was disturbing. Maybe my teeth aren’t as good looking as I thought.  I asked for a copy to hang on my kid’s bathroom mirror to encourage them to brush their teeth well and often.  Probably for the best though, it wasn’t printable from there.

     After the scan, the assistant clicks around a couple of times and e-mails the file to a dental lab 150 miles away for fabrication.  Pretty cool.

     That’s it for me today.  As always…stay nerdy my friends. And don’t forget to floss.

Copyright 2014 It Came From The Nerdcave