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Tue, 11 May 2004
Dental detour
This morning I took a trip to the dentist to have a pair of fillings replaced/extended. The teeth already had fillings, but the space between the teeth (all the way in the back) was where the problem lay. So in order to take care of the new problem, the old fillings had to be dealt with as well.

Unfortunately for me, I did a bad job of tooth care as an older child/young teen, so I have quite a few cavities. I've done the filling routine more time that I (or my parent's pocketbook) would like to remember. It's been a long time since I had a new cavity, so I've forgotten the routine. Some things were the same, the pinch of the novacaine, the numbness in the side of the face, the whine of the drill, the smell of enamel being removed. All the same as last time.

But there were some new things as well. Today was the first time that I've ever gotten to watch the process of filling a cavity. My dentist used a rubber dam, which is a thin sheet of rubber that acts like a surgical drape. I imagine that this is much more sanitary and convenient for the dentist as he works. It also made it easy for me to see what was going on. So I took him up on the offer to watch as much as I wanted. I didn't bother to look during most of the drilling, but it was interesting to see the two teeth with holes in them after the drilling was done. He showed me some areas of the teeth that are wearing in a bad way and show how they'd try to reduce the effect. I saw the red plaque stain that he used to locate the last bits of decayed tooth, and the new bonding resin that they are using to provide the teeth with some additional protection. And I finally got to see that weird tool actually squeeze the amalgam into my teeth and watch him sculpt / press it with that other familiar looking tool. The dentist did a great job of narrating what he was doing, which made the whole experience as pleasant as it could be.

It's interesting to watch the developments in various aspects of heath care. Doctors seem to have new equipment that they can use to run ever more detailed tests and visualizations if necessary. I went to visit my optometrist last week, and he was showing me the new machine that he got that takes a digital image of the entire retina, showing him much more then he's ever been able to see before. I'm also wearing contacts that can stay in my eyes for a month at a time, with fewer problems than the daily wear lenses that came before them. Dentistry, at least as far as I can tell, is not much changed, at least for the basic routines. The procedure this morning was essentially the same as the one I had when I was a kid, sans the rubber dam, the bonding resin, and the cool magnifying glasses with the built in search light (I love those, so I have to mention them). But beyond that it remains the same very physical work of sticking one's hands into someone's open mouth, using a drill on enamel, and putting (mercury free) material into the tooth to restore it.

Now I suppose that this could be because my dentist is a bit older and maybe he hasn't got every new piece of high tech dental equipment. That doesn't bother me. For some reason, when it comes to doctors and dentists, I'm more comfortable with the ones who have been around for a while as compared to people who have been around for less time (and as I get older the former pool shrinks while the latter grows). I find that the more experienced folks tend to be more laid back and mellow to deal with. Chalk it up to experience, or possibly to a generation that didn't grow up obsessed with treating everything immediately.

[23:25] | [misc] | # | TB | F | G | 4 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post

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