Saturday, February 04, 2006

My new teeth

When I was, ah, I can't remember, but around eight to ten years old, I ran into a another, smaller kid at school. How much smaller? His glasses were the perfect height to impact my teeth. He complained, at the time that I broke his glasses, although he would be fine a week later. For what it's worth, my mother was called and told, "Kwandongbrian broke all his teeth" (Maybe they didn't call me 'Kwandong...' back then).

Anyway, the other kid was fine after a week and I will probably be done with it all next week. I had been wearing a plate for maybe five years and I finally went in to a dentist and asked for a permanent tooth. It will join the two buck-teeth that are fake and one a little further in that broke last year, giving me four false teeth and about four more with root canals. On the plus side, I do have all my wisdom teeth!

You might wonder how, thirty years later, I can still blame the accident for my dental problems. Well, it's easier than blaming my hygiene regime, which, honestly, probably does deserve some of the blame. Anyway, through elementary and high school, as I grew, my teeth were worked on and I learned to fear dentists. Or a dentist. Looking back, his work was pretty good and a young boy is probably not the best patient for deep drilling and electric shocks. To this day, though, I don't know why all those shocks were needed.

What electric shocks? Well, when going to work on a tooth, the dentist needs to know if the nerve is alive; calling for one treatment, or dead; calling for a more invasive treatment. How can you learn if the nerve is dead? By using a massive electric shock.

Massive? Well, when you apply the current more-or-less directly to the nerve, any amount feels massive. I remember one day I left the dental office with the work unfinished because I refused to let him test the nerves any more. That was probably the most pain I had ever experienced and I just couldn't open my mouth to let him shock another tooth (or the same one, how could I tell?) for the twentieth time (well, maybe for the fifth time, but it seemed an excessive number of times).

While at university, I had a bike accident and rebroke the caps covering my buckteeth (the upper front two).

From all the trauma my teeth had suffered, nearby teeth began to die and need root canals and eventually, my lower center tooth seemed fine but the gum pulled away until the tooth was basically floating. This is the one that I had pulled and a 'temporary' plate put in. Once the neighboring teeth had 'calmed down' (the dentist's words), I could get a permanent solution. Have I used too many brackets and quotation marks here?

Which brings us to last Thursday when I visited a Yangyang dentist who had done good work on another tooth. After thinking about the problem, he went into his office and apparently did some studying because he came back with several written phrases mostly explaining what he was going to do that day.

As the broken tooth was so small, he couldn't simply drive a pin in and mount a tooth; he needed to grind down the neighboring teeth and make a bridge. The other phrases described what I should do while he worked.

He gave me some, or a lot of, freezing and told me to raise my left hand if I felt pain. This should be a painless operation. I liked the sound of that.

That was too good to be true. When he was about half way through, I lifted my hand and he gave me some more freezing. He also went into his office and came back with a new phrase; "with one ampoule of anesthesia, some pain exists". With that understanding, he went back to work.

The pain never became unbearable but what was nearly unbearable was the fear of what to do if the pain did spike. And, how much more was there to be done? How much longer would he be grinding, grinding away at my teeth?

Anyway, he was eventually done and temporary caps put on my teeth. On the tenth, I get my new, and hopefully permanent teeth.

One last humiliation at the clinic; when the dentist compared my teeth to the color chart to best match the surrounding teeth he had to go a fair ways off-white.

I have to relearn how to talk. The caps, and the permanent teeth take up less space than the plate did so now I am lisping my 's's a little I also have to relearn not to reach inside my mouth when I brush my teeth - there is nothing to be removed and brushed separately now.

For what it's worth, my dentist seems to be doing a good job. If you are in Yangyang and need dental work, you should visit 장상우 치과. I am happy to give directions. I warn you that the is one of the few dentists who doesn't speak English.

1 comment:

Nathan B. said...

What a fascinating post! I hope that you won't have any further problems with your new teeth.

I, too, had an accident when I was a boy, although it was really quite minor. I was running in a recreation center lobby when I fell and hit the floor, buck teeth first. They broke, but the tops of the teeth were still in my mouth. My dentist managed to make two new teeth for me, which have lasted to the present time with only one or two occasions when a little maintenance was needed.