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A Chimp Off the Old Block

Friday, March 2, 2018

Just lying back in the dentist’s barcalounger, listening to music I would never choose on my own, waiting for the novocaine to kick in. The assistant spreads out an arsenal of medieval-looking weapons, while making the sort of small talk meant to relax me before “The Procedure.”

The Procedure, this time, is the removal of an old crown, in order to prepare me for the placement of a new crown, and the subsequent removal of a certain quantity of funds from my checking account. A substantial quantity of funds, but I’ve already braced myself for that particular pain. I have not prepared myself the unknown quantity of physical pain I might experience.

My lips and tongue couldn’t be less responsive if they belonged to someone else. The dentist suggests that I rinse, giving me a chance to demonstrate absolutely zero control of my mouth. Liquids of various descriptions dribble out in all directions… or, at least, in every direction except that of the tiny sink at my left elbow.

In a voice that I hope sounds casual, I ask how difficult it will be to remove a crown that has been cemented firmly in place for two decades. “It’s usually pretty simple. Since there’s a cavity under one edge, it should break loose almost on its own. I’ll cut the crown in half to make it easier to pry off the rest.” That’s pretty reassuring.

He starts sawing through the porcelain. It takes a long time, and my jaw aches from being stretched to its maximum opening. “The porcelain cuts pretty easily,” he says, “the metal underneath is considerably tougher.” I find that considerably less reassuring.

He switches to a different tool, saying that—one time—he went through a dozen #34 tips on one crown. I have a sinking suspicion that he knows that I am no longer in a position to object to anything he wants to do to me. The sawing continues. He stops and tries to pry off a bit of the old crown.

It doesn’t work.

The sawing continues, going back and forth between the tools used for porcelain and the now infamous #34s. He says that he’s had to saw the old crown in eighths. He resumes the prying maneuvers.

It still doesn’t work.

He asks the assistant for “the tapper.”

“The tapper” sounds so much better than “the hammer.” But it is a hammer. It’s accompanied by “the chisel.” For the next half hour, my hyper-extended jaw is twisted sideways from repeated blows. At one point he asks me to keep my eyes closed, because a flying chip of my former crown has landed just below my left eyelid. I’m happy to comply, because—for a moment—I can relax my over-stretched mandibular muscles.

Finally the crown, reduced to a small pile of shrapnel among the dental tools, is no more.

It’s not the conclusion of The Procedure, however. More tools descend into my gaping maw, grinding and scraping, chipping away at whatever had been lurking beneath the old prosthesis. At this point, they insert various devices and substances in order to make molds to be used to manufacture a replacement crown. This means several grateful minutes when my mouth gets to remain closed.

I wonder if novocaine is responsible for this surge of euphoria, or if it’s just relief subsequent to The Procedure, but I start to feel good. It was the result of neither. I am soothed by the attentions of a couple of members of my own species fussing over me. I am just another primate, an oversized chimp as it were, blissfully having my fur groomed by the rest of his troop.

Of course a chimp doesn't have to pay over a thousand dollars for a bit of sociable lice-picking. So who’s the smarter primate?  


Blogger Unknown said...

Effing ouch!! Double the pain! There is no pleasure...

March 2, 2018 at 10:35 PM  
Anonymous Awanthi Vardaraj said...

I winced my way through this post. *shudder* I've been putting off dental work for years; reading your descriptive post makes me feel less guilty about it.

March 3, 2018 at 12:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't stop laughing! Sign me Sickie from Peekskill

March 3, 2018 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger Gary Allen said...

Unknown: Most of the pain of this event was imaginary... a mixture of dread and uncertainty about how much longer the experince would last.

Awanthi: This dental "procedure" was like eating very hot chiles... the pain was brief, but the euphoria that followed was long lasting.

Sickie: Few things are more amusing as another's pain.. or even one's own pain, once it's safely in the past. Happy to provide some.

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