Friday, July 09, 2004

Zen and the ken of dental maintenance

What’s the best part about dental surgery?

As of now, I can’t think of a reason. But this much I can say, a bi-cortical surgical implant isn’t as bad as it sounds. After 5 injections, you don’t feel a thing. The malevolent, gleaming steel implements hold no terror. The snarling drill doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies.

I’m inexplicably detached as the dentist asks her assistant for a blade. And I can tell my gums are being sliced open only by the movement of her hand and the slight tugs I feel. John Denver is crooning, ‘Sweet Surrender’ in the background. The lime green and white interiors of the clinic are remarkably calming.

We both gaze at my Orthopantomogram (the full mouth X-ray). It grins back eerily.

“We’ll drill all the way up into the bone and then we’ll place the screw there,” she says. I nod matter-of-factly.

For someone who’s fastidious about brushing and flossing and bi-annual clean ups for years but is still regularly trounced by those vile bacteria, an unemotional standpoint is the best. Besides, the bi-cortical implant was a final attempt to correct the vestiges of an accident-prone childhood. A face-first encounter with a stone bench way back in school had left me minus a pearly white.

“Your bones are very good,”
she says.

So the mouth did turn out something good after all. But it seems a bit funny… A dentist complimenting you on your bones is much like a neurologist admiring your kidneys or a proctologist raving about your complexion. I try to smile but the probe sticking out of my jaw gets in the way.

A titanium screw is reverently brought forth by the assistant. It’s fitted in the newly excavated good bone. Silver, acrylic and now titanium… Must admit, I feel a little cyborg-ish. Part human, part metal.

I forbade my tongue to find out what the mangled upper jaw feels like. But when the dentist offers me the mirror, I take it. It not as bad as I visualized. The titanium screw glints and the black sutures have successfully stemmed the bleeding. I wonder what it will feel like when the anesthetic wears off…

“Avoid solid food or anything that will cause pressure on your teeth today,” she says.

“Does that mean I can’t crack open beer bottles,” I joke. Only it doesn’t sound funny. With a numb jaw and a lip hanging lower on one side, all that emerges is a slurry sough, ‘wuff wuff wiffle wiffle weff weff’.

She prescribes painkillers and other antibiotics. And then tries to ease things by cheerily announcing, ‘You can have as much ice-cream and milk shakes as you want.’ She waits for my eyes to light up. When they don’t, she looks bemused.

‘Wiff wiff..,’
I try to explain, ‘I don’t like ice-creams or milkshakes.’

‘But you must have it,’ she persists. ‘You need to eat cold foods.’

When icecream and milkshakes get listed below Combiflam and Novoclox on the prescription, then you know that a little cheer has just left the world.

But the good patient (with good bones) that I am, I stop off at McDonald’s on the way home and place my order. I slurp the softie and toss away the cone before beginning on the milkshake. Doctor’s orders…

Update: Guess who's sporting the sultry, sought-after, bee-stung pout this morning? Move over Naomi Campbell and Angelina Jo-lee!

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