A True Tooth Tale

I’m in an oral surgeon’s waiting room, and it’s 8:30, eastern day light savings time on a Friday morning.  The reason I’m here started 5 years ago when my then dentist suggested one of my tooth fillings needed to be replaced.  His reasoning was, because of the filling’s age, there could be undetectable decay under the filling. I guess similar to bottom rot on a tomato. He went on to explain that today’s new filling compounds were much improved and would last longer. (Note: When shopping for medical care for yourself, your family, or your dog, it’s wise to avoid practices with names that contain words like: Outlet, Express, or Depot.) Now keep in mind, this tooth was perfectly happy and had never caused myself or anyone in my immediate family any aggravation, irritation, or pain. So, believing and trusting in my doctor’s dental wisdom, I gave him the “go-ahead” to replace the filling.

To make a long story short, my once happy tooth was over filled resulting in bite alignment problems, pain, many trips to the dentist, TMJ, and a cracked tooth.  I went through 5 years, 5 dentists, grinding, re-shaping, polishing, a crown, a root canal, and ended up with a sharp pain when I used the tooth for biting food.   So, I finally gave up and made an appointment to have the once happy tooth extracted. And, that’s why I was in the oral surgeon’s waiting room at 8:30 on a Friday morning.

After a brief wait, I was soon escorted to the operatory, assisted into a horizontal baby blue dental chair, and received a matching blue dental bib that was chained and alligator clipped around my neck.  I’ve been told that the color blue brings out my eyes, but that day my eyes would be mostly shut. The doctor soon walked into the room, shook my hand, and entered into my mouth. I suspect he’s on a production based salary, because he’s not taking time to ask about the weather, my kids, or how my mama’s doing. He only asked me to verify the problem tooth. Which made me think, that some time in the past, he had failed to ask someone that question.  I told him it was on my top right side, next to last tooth. I said, “It’s easy to find because it’s got the letters “K” ,”I”, “A”  stenciled on it.” He ask why the 3 letters. I said, “Because I could have bought a “KIA” for what I’ve spent on that one tooth.” By his lack of response, I don’t think he even knew what a KIA was. Now that really surprises me, because all the people I know that work on a production based salary own at least one KIA.

After numbing me from my shoulders up, the doctor and his assistant went straight to work moving in and out of my mouth like a precision marching team.  I’m busy taking care of everything on my end. You know, important things like short heavy breathing, soft grunting sounds, and rapid non-stop praying. As soon as his hands and my tooth exit my mouth opening, and even before I hear the tooth clink in the bottom of his stainless steel drip pan, the doctor goes into “up-sale” mode. He’s strongly recommending I fill my new void with an implant. He said that in three months, after the bone grows back into shape, he’ll cut open my newly healed skin, drill and tap threads into my jaw bone, and screw a titanium stud in place that would allow my dentist to mount a man-made handcrafted tooth. He explained the procedure would require several visits and with healing time, take 6 to 8 months.

I could sense he really wants me to have the implant, because my decision has a direct relationship to his family’s quality of life. I do believe he needs to put a little more thought into how he speaks of the benefits of having an implant.  His speech went something like, “If you choose to have the implant, you’ll never have to worry about the tooth again.” He re-emphasized “the strong titanium steel stud, screwed firmly into my jawbone, that would remain securely in place long after I’m dead and gone.”  I guess he never stopped to think that when a person reaches a certain age, pretty much everything they buy comes with a life-time warranty and will be here long after they’re dead and gone. Even the people selling appliances at Best Buy understand that. Two years ago, we purchased a refrigerator and the guy has yet to ask me if I want to purchase the extended warranty.  When that happens, it hurts. It hurts real bad. Even worse than first time the Bojangles’ cashier gave me a senior discount on a chicken biscuit, without ever asking my age.

Okay,  back to the tooth. Like a well-trained salesperson, the dentist never mentioned cost until he had given all the benefits. He said the total procedure would require both he and my regular dentist and would run in the neighborhood of several thousand dollars. Yep, that tooth was more like a KIA than I had first realized. Not only did it cost as much as a KIA, I paid on it for 5 years, and in the end, it had no re-sale value, and I had to pay someone to remove it.

I wonder if “Lamborghini” will fit on my new implant.

PS- That Friday night, I placed the tooth under my pillow. The next morning there was a $5 SNAP card, a 1099G form, and a note saying, “Saturday Delivery Will Cease August 1”, signed The Tooth Fairy.

By Glenn Strange ⓒ 2013

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