A Dental Visit

I spent three hours in the dental chair yesterday from 8 a.m. until a little after 11 a.m. You see, a root canal had gone south on me, so last month I had to have an oral surgeon dig out Molar No. 30 and yesterday I was having the preliminary work done for a bridge.

Since I’m getting older than dirt, and old people often drift back into memories from the past, I hope you’re stay with me while I revisit a few dental experiences that are currently bubbling around in my hardening brain.

I first visited an oral surgeon in 1972 when I was a graduate student in Colorado. Because the lower backend of my jaw hurt like hell and felt like it was trying to give birth to baseballs, I visited a dentist who sent me to an oral surgeon to have two impacted wisdom teeth extracted. A good guy, this kind man only charged me $100 to take out both teeth. I suspect he cut me a good deal because of my whining about how I was only making 85 cents an hour washing dishes in a dormitory at the time.

The second visit to an oral surgeon to unload the other two wisdom teeth occurred in 1975, or maybe it was 1976, in New Orleans, where I shelled out $500. That experience was awful since dry sockets reared their ugly heads after the teeth were extracted, and I ended up spending several days in bed. The only good part of this dental adventure was the Tylenol laced with codeine which, looking back on it, made reading Stephen King’s “The Shining” a truly terrifying experience.

Back to the present. The oral surgeon here in rural NC charged me $1,041 four weeks ago when he carved out my cracked Molar No. 30 that had had a root canal in early 2022.

I’ll spare you my rant about inflation, but I do want to share a few comments regarding how half of the $1,041 bill paid for 15 minutes of Deep Sedation and 15 minutes of General Anesthesia.

I’ve been told that this Deep Sedation is also known as “Twilight Sleep” and that it can be downright weird. Because of various chemical interactions with homosapien hormonal juices, the unconscious person receiving this kind of IV infusion can talk and even hold a conversation with the oral surgeon.

Holy shit, that’s nuts!

If you think that’s crazy, get this: My regular dentist told me today that when he was in dental school, “just for fun,” he and a fellow student during their oral surgery class would occasionally gather around some poor slob having a tooth removed. They’d question him, and he’d tell them all kinds of things. My dentist wouldn’t tell me any specifics about what they’d hear, but I mean, seriously, I bet the guy’s Id would be blabbering secrets and stories you could probably write a Proust novel about.

I’m a pretty mild old guy in my dotage, but given the nature of my fading memory and the mysteries of my Id in my 20’s and 30’s, I shudder to think what I might have said during my Twilight Sleep last month…

Well, we won’t go there. Happily, no officers of the law stood next to the dental chair with handcuffs and Mace when I regained consciousness so perhaps I merely recited passages from Hamlet or lines from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock until the surgeon told me to shut up.

But I ramble.

Back to the narrative.

Anyway, yesterday my dentist poked, prodded, and removed with various drill bits and dull chisels substantial pieces of Second Bicuspid No. 29 and Molar No. 31 so they would hold temporary crowns. Next month, the temporary crowns will be replaced with permanent crowns which will be attached to something called a bridge. The bridge will apparently cover the thumb-sized hole in which Molar 30 resided for about 70 years.

On the off chance you’re having trouble visualizing a bridge, just think of the bright orange structure that connects San Francisco to Marin Country, California. You know, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Speaking of bridges, now that I’m totally committed to diligent dental hygiene during Act V of my life, I inquired about how to floss every night around this bridge. Because she works with many elderly patients whose memories retain information the way a sieve holds water, the dental assistant promised to provide me with a full tutorial when the actual bridge was permanently installed in my mouth.

“I’ll tell you all about flossing your bridge once we cement the final appliance into place next month,” she informed me

Seriously, I didn’t care much for that word “cemented,” but I’m going to withhold judgement until I have more information.

Oh, jeez, I see I’m about to wander off the timeline of this narrative yet again. So sorry. At least I caught myself this time. Chalk it up to neural misfirings probably caused by remnants of the lidocain or whatever numbing med the dentists use these days to make your mouth feel like you’ve swallowed a space heater.

Back to the narrative and proper timeline:

His assistant, whose pronouns about which I failed to inquire, then took something like 18 impressions with gooey Silly Putty-like stuff that stuck to my beard, my inner cheeks (my mouth cheeks, not my butt, silly!) and possibly my tonsils.

All kinds of other things happened in my mouth during yesterday’s visit, but it’s getting late and I need to shut up even though I’m sure you would love to read another 25,000 words or so.

So, to make a long story short and to put those still reading this out of their misery, at the end of the appointment, as the assistant was cleaning the gum area below one of the temporaries my lower lip was accidentally jabbed and sliced open with some kind of sharp stainless steel tool. (Probably, possibly, a descendant of instruments used during the Spanish Inquisition?)

WTF! OMG! You should have seen the blood!

On second thought, no, I’m glad you didn’t see the blood. Gushing from my poor old lip (yes, having lived this long I can call my lower lip old) the oxygenated red stuff was all over my beard, all over the front of my shirt, all over the floor, and I fear some may have splattered on the ceiling!

Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

Yeah, in the interest of full transparency in these terrible days of lies and exaggerated versions of what’s presented as Truth, the above was more than an slight exaggeration.

In reality, a quick dab with some kind of dental blood thickener sealed the tiny cut, and I was directed to the billing office. I gave thought to requesting a 10% discount since the blood loss had caused my lower lip to droop well below my chin but decided against doing that and instead kept a stiff upper lip and paid the bill without confrontation.

(Ha, don’t you love the way I drilled down — so to speak — to the clever last line of the previous paragraph about keeping a stiff upper lip? I mean, seriously, wasn’t that the funniest thing you’ve read in the past five minutes?)

Moral: Take care of your teeth when you’re young and/or don’t live too long if you still have a daily jones for Tillamook Mountain Huckleberry and Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.

Finally, you heard about the award won by the dentist, didn’t you?


Well, he won a plaque.