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By Staff | Apr 30, 2010

So there I was, eating breakfast and reading the morning news when an odd “pop” reverberated through my skull. “Whoa,” I thought, “That bran cereal is extra crunchy this morning!”

But, alas; it wasn’t the cereal. The moment I resumed chewing, the source of the “pop” revealed itself to be a busted tooth.

My first thought was, “I don’t care what they say about getting enough fiber, this is ridiculous! Serves me right for buying a breakfast cereal that comes in a package that features a picture of a 2by-4 going through a shredder.”

My second thought regarded what I assumed would be the enormous expense of this masticatory misadventure. And also whether or not there’s any chance I could turn in a warranty claim for a half-century-old tooth.

This tooth trouble wasn’t all that unexpected. That particular tusk has been through the mill, subjected to a root canal and reduced to a gob of amalgam surrounded by a thin veneer of tooth.

Which is why I’m not one of those circus acrobats who hangs by their teeth and spins like the crankshaft of a V-8 engine.

A call was promptly placed to my dentist’s office. I was informed that I was lucky, that they’d had a cancellation and could fit me in within the hour.

Being told to be at the dentist’s that early in the day is not my idea of luck. I’m surprised they don’t have more cancellations, given how unfun it is to sit in the dentist’s chair.

Ah, yes. There’s nothing like the scream of a pneumatic drill early in the morning. Who needs caffeine? Crank that puppy up to a million RPM, shove it into my mouth and I’m wide awake.

An X-ray was needed before the real fun could begin. I’m obviously an experienced dental patient, so they didn’t bother to instruct me. The assistant simply inserted the bitewing film and assumed – correctly – that I would know enough to chomp down and hold still.

I noticed some snazzy new gadgetry in the operatory. One such gizmo was a TV screen that displayed my various crowns and fillings in a constellation of enamel and amalgam. I grimly noted that this is what they would use should a news story regarding my demise include the line “the body was identified via dental records.”

Suddenly a strange young man was at my side, putting his rubber-gloved fingers into my maw. Actually, he wasn’t a total stranger; he was my dentist’s son, a very nice young fellow who had followed in his father’s footsteps and eventually took over the practice.

But he looked so boyish. Why, he could almost be my um, much younger brother.

There was the quick prick of the Novocain needle and the drill was brought to bear. I may have appeared outwardly calm, but was squirming like a bag of snakes on the inside.

During times of duress I’ve heard that some go to their “happy place,” so I tried to conjure up an image to distract me from this stressful situation. Given such short notice, the only thing that came to mind was my new lawn mower.

I recently traded up to one of those nifty “zero turn” lawn machines, the kind that steers like a skid loader. The difference between my old tractor-type mower and this new zero-turn model is like comparing the Titanic to a cheetah.

As the drill excavated my mandible, I recalled how fun it was when I recently used that new mower for the first time.

The term “turn on a dime and give you a nickel in change” doesn’t begin to describe its maneuverability. Steering the new mower seemed totally instinctual. You just think about turning and – whee! – you’re going in a different direction. I’m guessing it came with the Vulcan mind meld option.

Screee! squealed the drill. Humm! replied my mower.

The dentist paused and explained that he would have to do a wee bit of laser surgery on my gums. I nodded pleasantly and imagined how it feels to look out across the laser-level carpet of my surgically groomed lawn.

The young dentist completed his work quickly and efficiently – very much like my new mower.

Toward the end of my visit, I was instructed to bite down on some gunk so that a new crown could be built for me. There’s nothing like the taste of window caulk early in the morning.

I received kudos for my cooperation, so I guess you could say that I made a good impression at the dentist’s office.

But I’m simply glad that my new mower was there to help me get through it.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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