health, How To, humor

Tooth Truth: Canines & Molars

Who needs canine teeth?  Dracula, for one.  But not me.  Molars are another story, with comical twists and a chance of being helpful if U ever need to consider replacing a molar with a dental implant.

After an emergency extraction of a canine tooth late in 2019, I had been expecting to replace it with an implant.  But my state’s lockdown early in 2020 kept me from coming back to the oral surgeon to discuss an implant.  By the time it was OK to get nonemergency dental work, I knew that my not having any canines would be no big deal.  Likewise for anybody else who can go to the dentist by daylight.

Molars are another story.  Lost one molar many years ago but did not miss it because my dentist put in a bridge (a crown as wide as 3 teeth) between the teeth flanking the hole where the molar had been.  Those teeth both went bad at the same time in 2020.  Despite a pint of Lidocaine, I was just barely able to endure the double extraction in 2020-11.  Could I endure installation of implants w/o general anesthesia?

Installing implants is less painful than pulling teeth.  Thanks to another pint of Lidocaine, all I felt was vibration and then a twisting motion at the end, when the oral surgeon screwed something into each implant.  On the way out, I asked the desk jockey about followup and was told there would be none.  My regular dentist could do the rest, after some time for healing.

When I went to my regular dentist, he asked me for the abutment kits.  The what?  An abutment screws into an implant like a bolt into a nut, as does the healing cap screwed into an implant by the oral surgeon.  I had not known about the difference.  The healing cap just keeps junk from falling into the implant; the taller and narrower abutment provides an anchor for a crown.  The regular dentist installs the abutment, but the oral surgeon supplies it.  Oops.

Fast forward past a long carnival of miscommunication.  I did need a followup visit with the oral surgeon.  Only after verifying that the implants had settled in could he hand me an abutment kit for each implant.  Be skeptical of assurances from desk jockeys.

Finally, I am in the dental chair and my regular dentist tries to unscrew the healing caps.  They should come out easily, but they don’t.  The dentist’s tool is like a screwdriver with a short shaft and handle, gripped between thumb and finger.  Not much leverage.  The oral surgeon was too enthusiastic when he installed the healing caps, using a tool like a ratchet wrench that has plenty of leverage.  Unlike the hardware store’s ratchet wrench, it can’t toggle between tightening and loosening.  Won’t help for loosening the caps.

I volunteer to fetch a pair of pliers from my car, so that my dentist can get a better grip on his little screwdriver than his aching fingers can provide.  Nix.  But a seed has been planted.  After more grunting and suffering, my dentist realizes that he has a familiar (and sterile) tool he can use like a pair of pliers: a hemostat.  It’s all downhill after that.  Screw in the abutments, take an impression, have the lab cast crowns, cement them in.

After a year of being unable to chew anything firmer than a banana on the right side of my mouth, chewing normally on both sides feels weird.

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