Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Curious Case of the Dislodged Piano Key

I'm sitting at this desk yesterday, idly biting my nails (it's a hobby) while I consider the many resumes that have been submitted by potential Dubious Quality staff members--and suddenly I feel a little bit of something that clearly isn't nail. No, it's a piano-key shaped piece of my front tooth, thanks very much.

Not the size of an actual piano key, mind you. I'm not half-man, half-donkey.

Dammit, people, the teeth. I was talking about the teeth.

Anyway, this chunk-o'-tooth forced a trip to the dentist this morning. My dentist (Helen) is the kindest, most enthusiastic person in the world. She's a hybrid of Mother Teresa and Marlo Thomas in That Girl. Even if I walked into her office with only six months to live, I'd walk out with a smile and a new toothbrush, along with strict instructions to floss.

Helen originally says she's going to do something called composite bonding, which sounded like balsa wood, Scotch tape, and Elmer's glue. She said jokingly that it would be fine if I didn't want to use the tooth for 'biting or tearing.'

That's all that tooth does, by the way.

I decided to go with a repair that would actually allow me to eat something besides applesauce and bananas. A porcelain veneer, it's called. That's the technical term, anyway. The functional term is Take Every Dollar You Ever Made And Give It To The Dentist. They actually hold you upside down and shake all the loose coins from your pockets before beginning the procedure.

In just a few minutes, it was clear that I was watching an episode of This Old House, with one unexpected wrinkle: I was the house. First Helen took a Dremel tool and evened out the bottom of the tooth that dare not speak its name. Then she started installing stuff--cotton packing, hoses to insert water, hoses to dry that water up, carpenters, foreman. I expected her to lift up a tiny scaffold and jam it right in.

The Dremel tool was followed by putty to make an impression, then a miniature belt sander, then the dental equivalent of a caulking gun. I would have liked to have seen the tooth at each step of the process, but Helen gave me nitrous oxide, so instead of paying attention I was enchanted with the possibility of a skyscraper being built in my mouth, with workers having lunch on the exposed beams of the highest stories.

It all worked out fine--Helen is a champ--but every time I hear a whistle, I smell sandwiches and coffee inside my mouth.

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