Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"Are you feeling lucky today?"

I had a tooth extracted today. Doesn’t matter why; suffice it to say that Miller teeth have been less than Hollywood-perfect since cave days. It was way back there in my mouth and I didn’t need it, anyway.

My dentist is a fine practitioner, but when his first question to me was “Are you feeling lucky today?” my heart sank.

I thought: Sure, playing Marathon Man ALWAYS makes me feel lucky, but of course I just said, “Yes I am. Why?”

Well, he said, HE needed luck to complete a swift procedure, given the particulars, which I totally did not understand and did not want to.

So that was the good luck. What was the bad, I asked?

He launched into something about how bad luck would force him into digging around down there if the damn thing cracked, or one root came out but the other didn’t, or if I was some genetic freak and the roots of this particular tooth went through my jaw into my spinal cord and up into my brain.

OK, I imagined that last part.

Still, “digging around down there” -- these are NOT words you ever want to hear in association with your mouth. So my mind went spinning off to some other universe where people do not need teeth to enjoy a good meal.

When it returned, my dentist asked me to inch back on the chair farther than seemed possible without falling off. That was so my head could be adjusted downward at such an angle that I could almost see the floor.

Access, I thought, correctly. My dentist did the usual turn this way and that thing repeatedly, until he found what I assumed was a suitable approach.

Then he said, and I quote: “Hmm, no leverage.”

Leverage is another word you never want to hear associated with your mouth, especially when the man saying it is holding a Cow Horn dental extractor in his hand. I believe leverage was the last word Dustin Hoffman heard before Laurence Olivier got down to it.

And, yes, Cow Horn is the technical name for the specific pliers used for this procedure. I know, because I managed to ask. I’m insatiably curious that way. I wish I weren’t.

Of course, I also had to ask how it got that name – you can see I was stalling big-time here – and my dentist said, well, it looks like a cow’s horn. And it did, a tiny one, but then my mind, which had returned from that universe where they do not have such things, thought of cows, which brought me to bulls, which have man-killing horns, as Spanish matadors can attest.

Feeling chatty now, I remarked that the Cow Horn must have an ancient lineage, given that for centuries, all dentists really could do was pull – ahem, extract – teeth. My dentist was not interested in history at that moment. He had the Cow Horn in his hand, and no leverage.

Stalling only works so long, by the way, in a dentist chair. My guy locked onto my tooth with his Cow Horn and began to wiggle back and forth, slowly at first. That’s when I began to wish he HAD found leverage.

The Cow Horn
He asked if I could feel it. Dumb question, I thought.

Which is when I wished I had opted for sedation, not Novocain. My thinking had been that I wouldn’t feel groggy the rest of the day without sedation and I could get some actual work done, not write a silly essay. Stupid thinking, Wayne.

“Are YOU feeling lucky today?” my dentist then asked his assistant.

I am not making this up.

The assistant didn’t answer. I interpreted this to mean she was NOT feeling lucky, and my mind completed another round trip to that universe, which I think I will name the Happy Place. Maybe they only eat plain yogurt and cream cheese there, but I’m OK with that.

Back and forth with the Cow Horn, the dentist went. I was booking another trip to The Happy Place when he said, AGAIN, “luck.” Actually, he exclaimed: "Luck!"

And he’d had it. Really. The tooth was out. Total time elapsed? Maybe five minutes.

As I said, I have a fine dentist. He’s of Irish descent, and surely has a four-leaf clover.

Also, an Irish sense of humor.