Generally speaking, dentists love to look at my teeth. It's nice to look at things the way they are supposed to be in the textbooks. Other than extracting wisdom teeth, it wasn't until after college that I had any cavities. The dentist I was seeing at the time guessed that the small cluster of fillings I needed on one side might've been from a viral infection. Who knows?
Then There's Tooth Number 14
Upper molar on my left side. For many years I was plagued with sinus infections, which seem to be under more control these days. Every now and then, though, tooth 14 would hurt like hell. X-rays showed no problem with the deep filling in there, but the dark shadow of one of sinuses loomed just above. They watched tooth 14 for years, but the tooth was never the problem.
That changed in September, when I had excruciating pain. This time X-rays showed an infection. After a round of antibiotics, I got a root canal in October.
Fast forward to two weeks ago and it was time to carve up tooth 14 and have a gold crown made. Gold, you say? Isn't gold frightfully expensive? Actually, a modern gold crown is an alloy and apparently doesn't have all that much gold in it. They've been surprised at the dentists' office that their supplier hasn't really changed prices since the economy crashed and gold soared. In fact, the gold crown was about the same price as porcelain. Dental insurance covers half either way. And there are huge materials reasons to go with gold -- gold is smooth, soft, doesn't chip or shatter, and excellent heat transfer characteristics.
Two weeks of having a plastic temporary crown -- boring. To maximize the life of the temporary, I mostly chewed on one side, especially including the mandatory Dentene Arctic Chill gum which helps keep clear those ruddy sinuses. (grin)
Today, as I was settling in the chair, a familiar face appeared. Two weeks ago a pre-dent college senior was visiting my dentist's offices and had observed the first part, including taking the impressions from which the final crown would be made. Well, she was back -- and thrilled to be seeing Act II with the same patient. Of course, Dr. Tim would be doing the work. And we go to him because he's a perfectionist and has the best hands in the business.
The first fitting, however, felt awful. Not to worry, there were adjustments to make. The last one, though, surprised me. It still felt wrong when I closed down on the crown. Dr. Tim observed there was one point from tooth 19 -- the one below tooth 14. I thought he was going to work on the crown, instead he took a power tool and polished the point on tooth 19. Apparently we are sensitive to very tiny imperfections in alignments. Polishing takes off just microns of material.
Twelve hours later and the new crown feels great.
But think about it. How much pain would someone like George Washington have been in with those old fashioned dentures he had to put up with, if we are that sensitive to tooth alignments?