teethI have only ever heard old people talk about their crowns. I am about to talk about my crown. Ergo, I am now an old people.

One of my molars was giving me twinges when I bit down on it and had become super-sensitive to temperature. Worried that it might be infected, I went to see the dentist right away.

No infection, he told me. It’s just cracked. Perfectly normal. Teeth crack all the time.

To him it was just a cracked tooth. To me it was a potential root canal. To me, teeth are chunks of bone that stick out of my head. Most of them are riddled with holes, and now one of them had a crack in it. To see just how badly it was cracked, he put a “bite stick” on the tooth and asked me to bite down on it. I bit down rather gingerly, because I knew I was going to get what felt like an electric shock right through the top of my head.

Anything you can do about that? I asked him. He said he could put a crown on it. I’ve heard people talking about crowns for as long as I can remember, but I had only the vaguest idea what they were. On the other hand, I now had a very clear idea what a cracked tooth was, so I said, Let’s go for the crown.

Turns out that a crown is a replacement tooth they make out of porcelain and glue into your mouth to replace the cracked one. They weren’t going to remove the cracked one, though. They just wanted to grind it down to a stump.

When I think about medical science, I tend to imagine skilled professionals delicately working my tender living tissues with precision instruments that do not produce smoke and noise. That was not the image I got when he told me he was going to grind my tooth down to a stump. And the reality of the operation was pretty much smoke and noise, just as I imagined. Maybe someday they’ll have those neat little flashlights and salt shakers that Doctor McCoy pointed at his patients to make them all better, but today they’re still grinding and glueing.

They also had to take an impression of the cracked tooth, before and after they ground it to a stump, and impressions of all my upper and lower teeth. That was kind of cool, except when they filled a big tray with goop and schlupped it up against the roof of my mouth to get an impression of the uppers. A long finger of the goop oozed down the back of my throat and I came close to gagging up my stomach, liver, gall bladder and kidneys.

It took two weeks for the lab to make the crown. In the meantime I had a plastic cap on the stump that I was afraid to chew on. They said it was okay, but with the caveat that I couldn’t chew on anything hard or anything really sticky. I knew that if I let myself chew on it at all, I would probably forget, bear down on an unpopped popcorn seed and CRUNCH! There goes my temporary. So for almost three weeks I chewed on only one side of my mouth. That gets old after just two or three days.

You’ll be able to chew on this as soon as you leave, they told me after they glued my crown in place this morning, so I went straight to Java Cat, bought myself a walnut scone and tried it out right away. No electric shock, and the other side of my mouth has never been so relieved.

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