Last Tuesday night I was watching TV when I suddenly felt a pebble in my mouth. “What the,?” I thought. “Where did that come from?” Except it wasn’t a pebble. When I fished it out of my mouth, and then went and looked in the mirror, I saw that part of a tooth had somehow broken off. Fortunately, the nerve wasn’t exposed, and it wasn’t painful, but it sure looked and felt weird.
I don’t know what caused a part of the tooth to break off like that. I hadn’t been slugged in the chops or hit in the face by a hockey puck. My understanding is that, even long after we reach adulthood, our teeth keep moving slightly along the gums, like the tectonic plates shifting under the San Andreas fault line. The tooth in question had been increasingly pressing against its neighbor, and it may have been that the stress finally caused a fracture. (Or, it may have been that I like eating almonds, and also like crunching on ice cubes, but I’m going with the “moving tooth” theory because it leaves me blameless.)
I groaned when I saw the broken tooth, because I thought the lack of structural integrity in the tooth might require some major dental repair work, like a crown or maybe even an implant. But when I went to see my dentist yesterday morning he took a look at the breakage, expressed his sympathy, said he’d have me fixed up in no time at all, and went right to work. First he slathered on some goop, then he did some sculpting to give it the appropriate tooth shape, then he stuck a plastic sheet between the tooth and its neighbor to create the appropriate dental floss gap, then he used some kind of heat ray/laser light gizmo that looked like some throwback to a Flash Gordon movie. The process ended with him grinding and polishing the reconstructed tooth so that it felt like a natural tooth, and then handing me a mirror so I could check it out for myself. To my amazement, the rebuilt tooth looks (and feels) exactly like the old tooth — and the whole process took less than a half hour, without any need for novocaine or gas. Within an hour or so, I was eating a pot roast sandwich for lunch without missing a beat.
Everybody makes fun of their trips to the dentist, me included. We’re all anti-dentites, I guess. But I’ve got to give credit where credit is due — when the chips were down (pun intended) and my tooth and I needed some serious help, my dentist came through and did a great job. And it’s interesting that we’ve got the technology that allows a busted tooth to be reconstructed in the time it takes to watch your average TV sitcom.