Dental distress

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There I was, eating breakfast and reading the morning news, when an odd “pop” reverberated through my skull. “Whoa,” I thought, “that bran cereal is extra crunchy this morning.”

But it wasn’t the cereal. The moment I resumed chewing, the source of the “pop” revealed itself to be a busted tooth.

My first reaction was, “I don’t care what they say about getting enough fiber, this is ridiculous. Serves me right for buying cereal that comes in a box that features a picture of a two-by-four going through a shredder.”

My second thought regarded what I knew would be the enormous expense of this mastication misadventure and whether or not there was any chance that the factory warranty might cover a half-century-old tooth.         

This tooth trouble wasn’t all that unexpected. That particular tusk had been through the mill, subjected to a root canal and reduced to a gob of amalgam surrounded by a thin veneer of enamel. I was glad that I hadn’t chosen a career as one of those circus acrobats who hangs by their teeth and spins like the crankshaft of a V-8 engine.

I promptly placed a call to my dentist’s office. I was informed that I was in luck, that they’d had a cancellation and could fit me in right away.

Being told to be at the dentist’s office that early in the day isn’t my idea of good luck. I’m surprised they don’t have more cancellations given how unfun it is to ride in the dentist’s chair.

There’s nothing like the scream of a dentist’s drill early in the morning to wake you up. Who needs caffeine? Crank that thing up to a million RPM, shove it into my mouth and I’m wide awake.

An X-ray was required before the fun could begin. The assistant, sensing that I was an experienced dental patient, didn’t bother to instruct me. She simply inserted the bitewing film and assumed – correctly – that I would know to chomp down and hold still.

I noticed some snazzy gadgetry in the operatory. One such gizmo was a large TV screen that displayed an X-ray of my various crowns and fillings, showcasing my unique constellation of enamel and amalgam. I grimly noted that this is what would be used should a news story regarding my demise include the phrase “the body was identified via dental records.”

A strange young man suddenly appeared at my side and shoved his gloved fingers into my maw. He wasn’t actually a total stranger. He was my dentist’s son, a very nice young fellow who had followed in his father’s footsteps and taken over the practice. But he looked so boyish. He could almost be my, um, much younger brother.

There was a quick prick from the Novocain needle and the drill was brought to bear. I may have appeared outwardly calm but was squirming like a bag of snakes inside.

I’d heard that some people go to their “happy place” during times of duress, so I tried to conjure up something to distract me from this distressing situation. Given such short notice, the only thing that came to mind was my new lawn mower.

I had recently upgraded to one of those nifty zero-turn lawn machines, the kind that steers like a skid loader. Comparing my old tractor-type mower to my new zero-turn model is like comparing the Titanic to a cheetah.          

As the drill excavated my mandible, I recalled how fun it was when I drove my marvelous new mower for the first time.

The term “turn on a dime and give you a nickel in change” doesn’t begin to describe its maneuverability. Steering my new mower is totally instinctual. You just think about turning and – whee! – you’re going in a different direction. The mower must have come with the Vulcan mind meld option.

“Screee” squealed the drill. “Hum” purred my mower.

The dentist paused and explained he would have to do a wee bit of laser surgery on my gums. I nodded agreeably and thought about how pleasing it feels to look out across the laser-level carpet of my surgically groomed lawn.

The young dentist completed his work quickly and efficiently, very much like my new mower.    

Toward the end of my dental ordeal, I was instructed to bite down on some gummy gunk to facilitate the process of constructing a new crown. There’s nothing like the taste of window caulk early in the morning.

I received kudos for my cooperation, so you might say I made a good impression at the dentist’s office. I was just glad that my new mower was there to help me get through it.    

Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry works full time for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at [email protected].    


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