Ever since my first newspaper column was published in 1983, I’ve always strived to craft something that readers could really sink their teeth into.
Sometimes I use personal stories to try to fill the cavities of the soul. Sometimes I attempt to use my biting sense of humor at the risk of coming across as too mouthy. Sometimes I fail and leave readers gnashing their teeth.
Usually I simply set my jaw and spit something out.
It started as a dull toothache, a 1 on the 10-point pain scale, a smoldering pain that is normal with any aging body. But it caught fire and within 36 hours quickly climbed the charts and stayed at an 8 with a relentless throbbing that spiked to 10.
This happened over the weekend, and since I couldn’t sleep much, I was ready to be the first call of the day Monday morning for my dentist. I took the first earliest appointment — which wasn’t until Thursday — but they had a cancellation and I was able to get in that afternoon.
I’ve been pretty blessed with healthy teeth over the years, with the exception of a couple of root canals and three crowns. Not so fortunate this time around. My left rear molar — tooth number 17 if you’re scoring at home using the Universal Numbering System — was likely a lost cause. The tooth previously had a root canal and was crowned.
My options were:
A. Go home with antibiotics and think about it.
B. Go home with antibiotics and wait for a referral to an endodontic specialist to get a second opinion on whether the tooth could be saved.
C. Go home with antibiotics and come back another day to have the tooth extracted.
D. Have the tooth pulled that day.
E. Run screaming from the office.
After a brief consultation with my three advisors — me, myself and I — and taking into consideration the emaciated state of my checkbook combined with a lack of dental insurance, we selected option D. The tooth was going that day.
As they numbed my jaw, I thought back to my younger days. The tooth they were about to pull was likely the replacement for the baby tooth that had been extracted by my late father using his slip-joint pliars that minutes before may have been used to fix a broken stanchion. Lesson to self — don’t complain about a loose tooth around Dad.
About an hour later, this old horse left the dental office with one fewer food grinder and a tiny consolation prize — a gold crown.
The dental alloys that are used in tooth crowns are classified in three different categories based on their level of precious metal content: precious (or high noble), semi-precious (noble) and non-precious (non-noble.)
Apparently a very prescient dentist must have known that I would one day become a land-owning Scottish lord because I was given a high noble gold crown. No common metals for these ivories.
The gold grubber in me (myself and I are not as nearly pretentious) wondered about its value, knowing that the price of gold has been increasing lately. Perhaps I had been unknowingly chewing on a gold mine these past 15 years or so. Maybe the hand of fate had dealt me a royal flush that could fill the exchequer’s coffers.
My Midas musings were quickly dashed when I discovered that even at today’s price of gold in the $1,700 per ounce range, my gold crown is probably worth $100 to $150, depending on the purity.
But still, at $150, it would come close to covering half of the cost of the extraction. And I do have one more gold crown. So if I have that tooth pulled, I’d be even, right? This could be the first cog of a sprocket to build my bridgework to a wealthy retirement.
Sounds like government budgeting 101.
Investing in the gold crowns in my mouth is pure fool’s gold.
It will take a while before my tongue stops going to that empty spot in my mouth, which at least matches the hole in my head.
I’ll also skip the implant — I have put enough money where my mouth is. Being longer in the tooth means I can adjust to being down one tooth. Might do me some good and slow my eating down a bit. (I and myself and doubt are quite skeptical).
One thing is certain.
It’s not going to stop me from biting off more than I can chew.