[Source: Google search]
This is not about a toothache as the photo suggests. It’s about me walking around with 0.5 cc of granules of a dead persons bone in my gums (ignore the gender reference in the title. It’s purely for dramatic effect. I thought it sounded spooky). For the next several months, my body is being tricked into recognizing these grains as being foreign to my body…and then, theoretically, form my own bone material in preparation for an implant.
Got that? Hope so, because I barely get it.
When I turned seventy at the end of last May, no one took me aside and informed me that now I was going to have a new and more involved relationship with the dental profession. No one spoke to me of crowns, broken fillings or implants.
All that’s changed now. I just got home yesterday afternoon after having my third extraction since January. Looking at me trying to force a smile, you wouldn’t take me for a neo-Nazi, a National Hockey League goalie or some survivalist named Skeeter living in an RV forty-five miles from downtown Las Vegas. No, I’ve been pretty lucky with my teeth. Up until January, I had all my real teeth (I still have my real teeth…most of them) despite the fact that I spent more than a few nickels at Harvey’s grocery store when I was a child. The small change didn’t go into raisins or apples. I was more interested in Mars bars, Milky Way bars and Tootsie Rolls. Yes, I paid for it all with trips to the dentist (a guy who didn’t believe in Novocaine) and got my fair share of fillings. At the time, it was a small price to pay for a candy bar.
A month or so ago, my regular dentist in Saranac Lake was in the process of replacing a cracked filling when he stopped and said: “This is worse than the x-ray showed. You’re root is very deep. This tooth needs to come out.”
So a month later I was sitting in an exam room of an oral surgeon in Lake Placid. It was a sparsely appointed room. There was the usual sink, etc, behind me and the light above my head. On a shelf in the corner was a computer monitor with an x-ray of my mouth on the screen. Somewhere amid the white dots (fillings) and a lot of gray stuff were the images of about five of my teeth. One of those was coming out.
The walls of the room were green, but my wife is convinced I’m color blind, so they may have been brown. I’ll never know.
After a check of my BP I was led into another room. This one had a similar x-ray of my mouth, but there was more stuff around. Soon I was nearly flat on my back with a light in my face that was so bright it made my eyes water. Maybe the doctor thought I was crying. More than likely I was. My fear of dentists goes back to childhood. In fact it probably pre-dates my birth.
“Any questions?” asked the surgeon.
I had opted for an implant at a later date so that meant I needed something to put into the empty hole in my gum. Leaving a vacancy in my gums was not something wanted. I’m certain it would affect my whistling of “Old Man River”.
I said: “You said earlier that the temporary ‘tooth’ was from a donor. Would you walk me through the donor thing?”
In the back of my mind, I knew that people didn’t ‘donate’ teeth…while they were alive.
“Well,” the doctor said, “it’s really not a donated tooth. It’s donated bone.”
“Like from a cadaver?” I tentatively inquired.
“Yes,” she said, keeping a straight face.
The top of the chair held my head in a tight position. I tried to turn and look at the tray of instruments, but I was afraid I’d catch a glimpse of a pair of pliers from Home Depot. Instead, I stared at the x-ray and silently bid farewell to my doomed tooth. After all, we’ve been through a lot together. The pain injections made my mouth feel like I looked like Quasimodo. I touched my left lower lip expecting a flow of saliva like the dogs in Stephen King novels.
[For those of you who are still with me, the stuff she was going to pack the empty hole with is called “Mineralized Ground Cancellous. 250-1,000 microns].
“Can we start?”
[Source: Google search]
“I’m ready,” I said. For the dead person’s bone matter, I thought.
After the pain of the injections that was giving me the drug that was to stop the pain, it was all over in about twenty minutes.
It was rather a simple procedure…not like in the movies.
Now I’m on a liquid diet for a week or so. The implant will come later. I’m over the worst of it.
But I can’t stop thinking of who the donor was. Was it someone I once knew? Perhaps someone I dated?
It’ll keep me awake for a few nights.
Most things do.