Cracked Tooth

I’m numb. Both physically and emotionally.

Monday night I bit down on a parmesan crisp and I felt a jolt in my mouth. I thought I might have broken a tooth, but there was nothing loose in my mouth, and usually there is if this happens, I know, from experience, just back in February.

But my tooth seemed solid. Yet there was an ache. And I chalked it up to nerves, to my gums, because when I was at the dentist a couple of months back complaining about pain, thinking a tooth he saved ten years previously in a delicate procedure was broken, he said it was just fine, and it was gum pain, and he shaved down the aforementioned tooth just a bit and voila, after a couple of weeks I was fine.

But Tuesday night my OCD started to kick in. I mean the pain wasn’t any less. Then again, it was not pain. It was just a dull ache, when I bit down on something. But still…

Then yesterday, Wednesday, during physical therapy, I ran my tongue over the tooth in question and I felt something different, something sticking out, and I knew I had to see the dentist.

You see I know the dentist doesn’t work on Friday. And I’m out of town next Monday to Wednesday for a gig. So I break the PT session to call the dentist’s office. They say he can see me at 11:10 in the morning. Great, but I’ve got a shrink appointment at that time, what about the afternoon? No availability. So I said I’d take it, worrying that the shrink would charge me for the canceled appointment…if I don’t cancel within twenty four hours I’ve got to pay, and it was less than twenty four hours.

Ultimately my shrink filled the hole, so it was a non-issue, and I showed up in Beverly Hills for the appointment at 11:10.

Upon inspection, it was determined that my tooth had a crack in it. But it was worse than that, because the crack went below the gumline, and if it went too far below the gumline it couldn’t be repaired. And if it could be repaired, I’d need a root canal, and then would the tooth even survive that long, or would it be better just to pull it. Only the periodontist could tell for sure, and he wasn’t in. After asking if I could handle the discomfort until tomorrow, which I said I could, the periodontist was booked for Friday afternoon. But then it was determined that the periodontist could return at 4:15 if I was available. Absolutely, I’ve cleared the decks, I’ll be there.

So I go home in a funk, I’m in suspended animation, and return at 4:15 and I sit down in the chair and the periodontist starts talking about the wrong tooth!

I’ve got to back up here. Before I left earlier, they did a CT scan. Used to be you had to go to a separate office on Beverly Drive and sit amidst giant equipment, but now the CT scan is something minor, that looks like it was 3-D printed, there’s one in the office, they strapped my head in, and that was the picture the periodontist was looking at.

And he’s talking about an infection and my head is spinning… I’m here for a cracked tooth, what are you talking about?

Well, that implant I got back in 2017… The bone has receded, there’s an infection, it has to come out.


To tell you the truth I didn’t believe it, I needed to be convinced. I got the whole rap and I accepted my fate and then reminded this guy that I was there for a completely different reason, which was news to him. Yet upon investigation, he saw what I was talking about.

So now I get numbed up so the cracked part of the tooth can be removed. And when it is extracted… It looks to me like it goes too far below the gumline to save it. But he tells me if he adds some bone, the dentist can do it. And then the dentist comes in for a consultation, and says I dodged a bullet, because the nerve was not involved, and as long as the periodontist leaves a millimeter of bone, he can fix the tooth, sans root canal.

That’s a big point, saving the tooth. That’s today’s mantra. And after finding out my expensive implant needed to be removed, so that they could clean out the infection and add some bone, I bought the theory.

So then I got a temporary, which this guy said would stay fixed in Canada, I’ve had temporaries fall off previously, and then we talked about surgery…

We could do it right then, but I’d have discomfort for three or four days. We batted it about, this guy was giving me tons of time, and decided the best plan was to wait until the following Thursday to have the implant removed and the cracked tooth fixed up, he said it was best to do them at the same time, they were on the same side, and he didn’t want to prescribe antibiotics twice.

Oh, what caused the crack? An amalgam filling. You know, from back in the day. Before fluoridated water, when cavities were part of growing up. Man, that tooth was probably filled before I was even ten. But amalgam expands and causes cracks…the periodontist could see it when he opened up the tooth.

So then we had to book the anesthesiologist, get the details down, and meanwhile, the guy behind the desk is asking me to pay. He says they’re going to waive some fee, but still…I was out the better part of a grand.

But that wasn’t as bad as when his compatriot asked me to sign a form acknowledging the details of next week’s procedures and I realized…by time this is done, I’m going to be out double-digit thousands.


So what are the options?

Well, this dentist is a miracle worker. He saved two teeth that another dentist and an oral surgeon said had to absolutely be removed.

But as expensive as the dentist is, most of the cost here is the periodontist.

So… I could just have the tooth pulled and leave a space. But that makes you look like a homeless person, that won’t do.

As for the implant being removed… The periodontist started talking about the infection going through the blood, into the heart, and I’ve already got enough things wrong with me, I don’t want to risk it. He was more concerned about the infection than the cracked tooth anyway.

And I could not put a new implant in the back, but that goes against what all the professionals advise. The periodontist said my other teeth would bear an undue load, and would ultimately crack.

No, I’ve got to do this right.

There are a few areas where I don’t cheap out. Health, my ski equipment and my computer equipment. Oh, and my car too. I repair it to the limit when scheduled. Then again, it’s an eighteen year old car.

But what do other people do?

Well, I know some well-heeled people who refuse to pay for health issues. They save the money, it’s better spent on a vacation, or an automobile… But just like if you don’t service a car it eventually fails, same deal with the human body, and that’s all you have, the other stuff is superfluous.

But how about the people who don’t have the money, what do they do?

Well, I know some who get the teeth pulled, or go to the UCLA dentistry school, and I just read a whole article about dental services over the border in Mexico.

But nothing is free. And we live in a country of haves and have-nots.

And the have-nots die sooner. And it’s all because of health care. Yes, the wealthy live longer because they get better health care. It’s regularly reported in the news, with data. Oh, that’s right, you can’t trust the “New York Times,” you don’t want to get vaccinated. I want all the help I can get. Man, give me that shot. I’ll take the risk, which is nearly infinitesimal anyway, despite what RFK Jr. says.

But even if you have dental insurance, which I don’t, it doesn’t cover much, everybody says to forgo its purchase. But what does everybody else do?

I mean you can show up at the emergency room and get seen without insurance, but not if you’ve got a problem with your teeth. What do you do?

And in truth, an infection in your mouth can kill you, my cardiologist told me this. But so many are young and think they’ll live forever and as you get older, especially men, they believe in ignorance, if you don’t think about it it doesn’t exist. So, we lose members of the cohort on a regular basis, whether it be Warren Zevon or that guy who died of a heart attack in his forties, and the rest of us make note of it and keep on living.

And how much longer are we going to live anyway?

My mother always complained that people live too long. She did not fear dying, as a matter of fact, she always told us if she was in the hospital to kill her. You know, pull the plug. Don’t employ unnecessary measures to prolong her life. And that’s the exact phrase she used, KILL ME!

Then again, I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older that my upbringing was so different from so many. My parents didn’t believe in closing our eyes, quite the contrary, they wanted to open them. Screw movie ratings, just go, we’ll get you in. My parents were the opposite of afraid, they dove in, grabbed on with both of their hands, they ate up life.

As for pampering us… Not only did my mother never drive us to school she never picked us up. I remember walking home in second grade during a hurricane, they closed school early.

But turning seventy has changed my perspective. My father died at seventy. And how long am I going to live anyway?

One thing is for sure, I don’t want to relax, miss life, I want to eat it up, that’s what my mother specialized in, what she taught me. And I don’t want to die in my sleep, I want to see it coming, I want to know.

And in truth you don’t want to live forever. All your friends are dead. It’s really depressing. But how much longer am I going to live?

If I die in the next couple of years it won’t matter how much money I spend fixing my teeth. But if I live another couple of decades, do I risk outliving my money?

Man, my generation has its head in the ground. Close family friends, two couples, ran out of money, their kids kept them alive, but I have no kids.

And it’s hard to dream about my financial future. Everybody’s on social security, they don’t want to work. I want to work, I’m willing to work, I am still working, but it’s weird, most people my age, people I know, are done, like life is over, and they complain about their cash and their ailments, and I don’t want to be one of those.

But if I’m laying out all this money for my mouth, does it pay to scrimp elsewhere?

Scrimping, being cheap, if you age and this is how you behave I feel sorry for you. It’s one thing if you’ve got no bread, then I really feel bad for you, but I know too many who won’t go and do, who buy second-rate products, believing they’re unentitled. I’ve gotta ask, when will this change, when will you be entitled? You don’t want to die with regrets. Oh, we all have regrets, anybody who denies this is lying, but you don’t want to be on your deathbed lamenting you didn’t go here or there.

I mean for this amount of money I could have gone skiing in South America this summer, twice, it started truly dumping a couple of weeks back. Seems extravagant, but how much am I laying out for my teeth?

I feel good that I got two new pairs of skis last year. Because it made me happy! Skiing is number one, that’s why I went to Middlebury, and that’s what I still do, 57 days last year. Oh, you don’t know if I’m in Vail, with modern communications methods you can be anywhere! And my new 99s, they hold like ice skates on Pepi’s Face, which is rock hard, and as steep as anything at Vail. I could have gotten another season out of my old boards, but man, when I hit the hard stuff, it was scary. Why live this way?

I’ve got the money to pay my dental bill. I don’t want to pay my dental bill. I mean last week I thought my teeth were fine. This came out of the blue. But it always comes out of the blue. Which is why you have to have a nest egg, which is another reason to not buy stuff on credit. I mean what do you really NEED! Credit card interest is insane, unless you absolutely need it, don’t charge it. Then again, I believe in delayed gratification, but too many do not. They want it, they believe they deserve it, right now. Many of those people you know leading high-flying lifestyles are flat broke. One paycheck away from losing it all. They’re worried about their image.

No one cares about you, they only care about themselves. Oh, don’t tell me otherwise, everybody’s narcissistic at the core. I’m not saying they’ve got no compassion, I’m just saying if you think people care what you look like, where you go, what you drive, you’re plain wrong. They might say something, put you down, but they don’t think about you for long, they’re too busy thinking about themselves.

So I’m just biting the bullet. I’m just paying. Like I said, if I die in a few years it’s a drop in the bucket. And if I live long… Well, that’s challenging, I always say if I outlive my money I’ll kill myself, commit suicide. I mean what else can you do? Oh, maybe I’d live the homeless life for a while, but aren’t the homeless the enemy?

Everybody in America decries the so-called takers, not realizing they are already taking and they might need the safety net provided by the government, to the degree it exists. But like I said above, everybody thinks they’re immune, that it won’t happen to them, that they’re living a charmed life and everything will work out with no bumps in the road and it will be sunny for the rest of their days.


You can pooh-pooh the above screed, but the truth is everybody weighs these issues, has these internal debates, they just don’t want you to think they’re weak, so they don’t verbalize them. Especially men, they’ve got to be macho. That doesn’t do much for you when you’re six feet under.

We’re all trying to figure it out for ourselves. You realize this when your parents are gone, when they’re not there to lean on, to give you advice, to scold you, to cough up some dough if you’re in a pinch. If you’re just putting one foot in front of the other, blindly…man, one day you’re going to fall into a pothole and good luck recovering.

I’m rationalizing. I’m overwhelmed with this bill. But I know the right thing to do. I’m gonna just go ahead and pay it. Life is funny that way, you’re down one day, and then something good happens and you’re rescued the next. You can’t be afraid to live life, you’ve got to go in with both guns blazing.

But I’m going to get one hell of a credit card bill next month.

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