Cracked Tooth

Is there such a thing as emergency dentistry?

So I’m rushing to go to Staples Center, to see Lady GaGa, to experience the hysteria, to drill down to the bottom of popular culture.  And I’m scarfing down some trail mix with Dannon coffee yogurt and…

Let’s start at the beginning.

Yesterday I went to the accountant, to do my taxes.  I could probably do them myself with a computer program, but I find a professional saves you more than the cost of the fee.  Still, it’s hard for me not to see my accountant as an arm of the government, or the school principal.  I put on a happy face, but I’m sure I’m gonna get busted, I’ve got a problem with authority.

And while she’s making some calculations, I check my BlackBerry to find an e-mail from Troy Carter about the GaGa gig and suddenly, my whole day disappears.  I’ve got to rush back to Santa Monica to rush back east and in the meantime call my mother to find out how her hip is doing and…I’ve got no food, I’ve got to make a pit stop at the grocery store.  I’ve got an idea!  I’ll go to Trader Joe!  I’ll buy some chocolate trail mix, as a reward for doing my taxes!

And on one hand I hate TJ’s.  Because of the upscale people looking for a bargain.  But more because too much of what I buy there tastes like it’s discounted.  But they’ve got a plethora of trail mixes, especially junky ones with chocolate, and a great spicy V-8 style juice and I can buy a salad, what the hell.

I end up buying three different chocolate trail mixes!  Like I told you, I deserved it!

And after arranging the details for the gig and calling my mother I sat down to eat my favorite concoction, trail mix and yogurt, which I discovered during my ski bumming years in Utah, when Jimmy bought nuts and created gorp and I needed something to wash it down with.

But this trail mix…  It was peppered with rocks.

I’m biting down and it’s difficult but if they sell the stuff, it’s edible, right?  Then I hear a crack.

And immediately I think it’s my tooth.  But I’m paranoid, and a quick search in the bathroom mirror with an exploratory finger yields no damage.

But there’s this pain on the inside…  Where I figure some peanut casing has been caught.  I ignore it.

Until an hour later when I become possessed, I’ve got to extract it.

I go online.  I discover you can put a knot in dental floss and it’ll pull anything through.  And I tie an ever-growing knot and I keep pulling and my gums are bleeding and I’ve still got the pain and I give up and start eating the chicken salad I purchased for dinner.

And then the pain becomes excruciating.

But then it wanes.

It dawns upon me.  This salad is going to worm out the detritus, it’s my savior!

But then the pain returns and now it’s intolerable, I cannot sit through a show, I cannot make it through the night, and I reach up into my mouth and I find that half of my tooth has broken away, but it’s still rooted up in the gum.

A disaster.

So I call the dentist.  Not that I expect to get anybody, but I give it a try.  And at the end of the recording, after the recitation of business hours, there’s a tag line stating "If you have a true dental emergency…"

Years ago I’d deny myself.  I didn’t believe in emergencies, I didn’t believe I deserved treatment.  Know what?  I got myself in some bad health situations, some of which I’ll never completely recover from.  But psychotherapy has turned me into a man of self-worth, I dialed the number.

And all I could hear was the baby screaming.  And a gentleman whose voice transmitted a desire to be left alone.  But after he put the tyke down, and I repeated my symptoms, he said he’d meet me at the office in half an hour, at a quarter to nine.


Then I started wondering if my problem was serious enough.  I was worried he’d laugh at me in the chair.

But this was not to be.

As he numbed me up he started talking about implants.  I’d probably need one.  This tooth appeared a goner.  He’d extract the half, but then he’d probably have to pull the whole thing.

And it’s right up front, I’ve got to do something.

He didn’t recommend a plastic insert, it makes you lisp.

He didn’t recommend a bridge, the two teeth next to it were in such good shape.

No, the implant was the way to go.

And I wanted the best, didn’t I?

Well of course I did.

That would be six grand from this gentleman in Brentwood, and then the emergency dentist detailed a procedure as serious as a heart transplant, with a recovery almost as long.

I’m of the pay now, fix it immediately, drive on down the highway school.  This was almost too much to fathom.

Well, was there any hope of saving the tooth?

Yes.  But then I’d need a root canal.  Tomorrow or the day after, he had a good relationship with the oral surgeon, they could squeeze me in.

My mouth still hurts from being pried open for my last root canal.

Finally, I’m numbed up enough he can extract the broken half.

And he’s got gauze around it, and he’s wiggling it with his fingers, and I almost want to reach in and yank it out myself but then he’s finally holding the half a tooth in his hand, like a golden nugget at Sutter’s Mill.

Whereupon he pronounces the tooth has made a fool of him.  He can see no blood, no root, not only can the tooth be saved, I can get a crown!

Well, maybe.  You see the tooth broke below the gum line and he’s working on it and telling me how much easier it would be to extract it but when he’s all done, hours later, he believes a miracle has taken place, I’ll be all right if I make it through the night.

Yes, if the nerve doesn’t start throbbing like a telltale heart.

So I didn’t see Lady GaGa.  And I’m old enough that the nerve retreated in the tooth, saving me expense, headache and pain in the wallet as well as the mouth.  And I’m never eating trail mix again.  And the dentist is my new best friend.  I heard all about his baby, his marriage, the miscarriages, his schooling…we went through a battle together.

I’m going back at 3 for a fitting for the crown, for the placement of a temporary.  Wish me luck!

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