Nine days ago I reported that one of my teeth decided to get a divorce. At least, the back half of the tooth filed for an amicable separation from the front half. Since then, I have had the privilege of going to the dentist two times, and I have another one scheduled for next week.
Here is a list of things I’d rather do that go to the dentist:
Everything, except maybe going to the doctor.
I know it seems like a short list, but I decided not to waste a lot of space on the web site. As I mentioned before, it’s not that I hate the dentist – in fact, I was able to become reacquainted with the dentist who gave me my second crown, nearly 28 years ago. He’s a great guy, and incredibly skilled and competent. It’s just that, as I mentioned, God placed within me a powerful gag reflex, which I am sure was put there to keep all sorts of hands and fingers and devices out of my mouth. I can swallow fine, even lots of pills at the same time, but if you start (and I hope you never do!) messing around with the back of my mouth, then by gum, I’m going to gag.
My first trip last week was basically to see what the damage was. Sort of like taking your car to the body shop after the accident. They won’t fix it that day, but they can order the parts. After taking a small x-ray (gag), and poking around with a little poking thing (gag), and drying the tooth with blasts of air (gag), all the while standing me on my head in the rocket ship chair, which makes blood rush to my head (gag), the dentist announced that I had broken a tooth. I have to admit I was shocked by his diagnosis.
He then laid out the particulars of what needed to happen next. The good thing was, I broke the back of the tooth, which meant the middle and front, where ol’ Mr. Tooth Nerve is located, was fully protected and undamaged. That was my only good news of that day. Ahead, I could look forward to numbing with huge needles, grinding, shaping, digital picture taking and getting a temporary cap (sort of like borrowing your brother’s hat, hoping that he doesn’t have lice), while waiting for the “permanent” cap – remember when they used to call those things in your mouth “permanent” teeth?
So, I went back to the dentist yesterday. Realize that all of this is happening with he pandemic, so it’s not like you can simply waltz into the waiting room, sit for a while and read Highlights magazine, and then mosey to a back room full of what I consider to be descendants of Inquisition torture devices, all laid out on the tray. Nope – now I have to call from my car, and then sit and wait until the coast is clear to come to the front door. I’m glad I didn’t have to know the secret knock, or the code (like “the starlings have flown at midnight”) – they did let me in, and then took my temperature, even though I told them I was pure and unspoiled, and then they gave me a squirt of hand sanitizer – for why, I don’t know.
Back in the room, I got to take my mask off, since they can’t do much with it on. I then was strapped in for the ride, and they began to go to work. I do wish that perhaps God had put Velcro or zippers on each side of my cheeks, so the dentist could simply open it up all the way, flop the top of my head back and do the work without having to say, “Now, try to keep your little tiny mouth open up wide enough so I can stick five different items in there, including a squirt gun and water sucking device.”
Because this is a family column, I’m not going to go into the details of my hour and a half. You can imagine it. I can say that I was glad there were no video cameras to take pictures of all the ways a human mouth can be manipulated, with cotton (gag), cardboard (gag), plastic lip spreaders (gag), and drills and grinders. The good news was that the Novocain was very effective. And everybody was pretty nice, although I have to say they still got me a couple of times, when, with most of a toolbox in my mouth, I was asked questions, like “How are you doing?” or “How does that feel?” I’ve actually been speaking in full sentences since I was 2 ½, but I found myself only being able to answer something like, “Gaa, wagahaga, o – kaa,” as I worked to keep my tongue from being stabbed by an implement.
By 3:30, it was over, and I walked out with less of me and more of the world of metal than when I came in. In a week, they will have my new crown – not a gold one, like the others, but a porcelain one, apparently so that if someone decides to stick their eye inside my mouth at some point in the future, and looks up to the back of the left upper ring of teeth, it will look “natural.” I also think gold costs too much these days. My only task now is to teach myself to eat on the right side of my mouth only, which is a nice challenge, since I always favor the left side.
I am grateful to have had someone skilled and patient and intentional in the work of repairing an old guy’s mouth. Back in the Old West days, I’m sure they would have just filled me with whiskey, and taken a pair of pliers and yanked the thing. I don’t think I would have liked that.
We do live in amazing times. The ability to heal and to re-create, and to do so with relatively little pain or hardship is remarkable. I know that people still hurt and die, and in my life, I’ve experienced at least part of that in varying stages of hurting, and close to dying. However, going back the “good old days” when none of the new marvelous technology existed is a non-starter, for sure.
So, with taking daily pills, wearing reading glasses and chewing with teeth that I didn’t start this life with, I’m not quite on my way to becoming a six-million dollar man, but I am walking my way through year 64 with as much hope and health and happiness as I can muster. I do pray that God will let me do so with an intentional heart, and a commitment to living each day better than the one before, and wasting nothing, even in retirement. I pray the same for you as well, and I hope your teeth are doing fine as well.
Word for the day: vertiginous. Pronounced ver-TIJ-uh-nus. It’s not a very used word, but it’s cousin has found some notoriety – “vertigo,” probably courtesy of Alfred Hitchcock and crazy camera angles. From the Latin, vertere, meaning “to turn,” we quickly find the word moves from turning to revolving, or spinning, or even whirling, which results in dizziness. “The Teacup ride at Disneyland left me a bit vertiginous.”
What is interesting is that the word, “dizzy,” which by and large we use today to mean off-kilter or unable to balance, originally came from the Old English dysig which actually means, “foolish, or stupid.” A dizzy person acted like a fool, and only later in the 1500s did it come to mean someone who could not balance, either physically or mentally. Vertiginous is a classier word, I think, and imagine if you could say to your relative at Christmas, “You know, I’ve always thought you to be fairly vertiginous…” and let the comment go…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.