Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dentists - A Love/Hate Relationship

Yesterday I finally completed the lengthy dental process, which started in early December when I lost a crown from a tooth that had had a root canal many years ago. Because the titanium post had broken, the tooth could not be saved, so had to be extracted. It was not a front tooth, but was far enough forward to be visible when I talked or smiled. The dentist recommended an implant (my second one, by the way).

Tooth implants are marvelous . . . and marvelously expensive! They involve the extraction of the tooth, the installation of the implant, six to eight weeks of healing, the creation of an abutment to hold a crown, and the placement of the permanent crown. For me, this process spanned five months.

Sometimes I think I’ve spent more time (and money) in a dentist’s chair, in my lifetime, than anyone else on the planet. Probably not, but, as some say, “Perception is everything.”

I still have nightmares about the dentist I went to as a child in Juneau. He used a jack hammer for a drill, and his assistant was trained in torture techniques. She used to slap my hand if I grabbed onto the arm of the chair too tightly. I know that my fear of the dentist stems from those days I spent in that stuffy little office.

As I grew older, dentists became gentler, their drills became faster and less jarring, techniques became more high-tech, and the anesthetic become more effective and easier to deliver. I still get a little knot in my stomach when I have a dentist appointment, but nothing like I used to. The fact is, in recent years I’ve had some of the most considerate, capable and gentle dentists I could hope for.

I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like, had I lived centuries ago, when the only resolution for a toothache was to liquor-up the patient and pry the tooth out. I’d hardly have a tooth left in my mouth, and I might have died, any number of times, from complications due to abscesses. I haven’t had many serious health issues, thank the good Lord, but my Achilles heel is in my mouth (talk about putting your foot in your mouth!). What a blessing that I live in this modern age, when dentists can work their wonders.

Thank you, Drs. Roholt and Cook, who cooperated in this successful and non-traumatic implant procedure.

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