Of Hammers and Teeth

December 17th, 2010 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

toothCarpentry, auto mechanics and dentistry are startlingly similar. That was literally pounded into my head again yesterday.

Hammers, chisels, screwdrivers and such tools are in carpenters’ truck-bed boxes and plumbers’ panel trucks. Dentists hide them in cabinets. Yet for all the computerization and other modernization, dentistry is still a mechanic’s profession.

This was all too plain yesterday as my dentist was pounding an implant into my jawbone. He used a little hammer and a wedge to drive the plug with the screw hole into its permanent spot. Jolting pressure and even flaring light flashes were on and off in my head. Maybe eight solid strikes shook my skull before he checked alignment and went at it again. Five pounding sessions and the little pile driver had sunk the implant plug into my bone.

Over at Wikipedia, references put this type of implant work back nearly a millennium and a half to the Mayans. At its essence, it really hasn’t changed all that much.

Likewise, tooth extraction is still done as it has been for centuries — with a pair of pliers.

The trappings can seem modern though, as do computers to help auto shops. My dentist uses very low radiation x-rays that feed directly into his computer network. He can project those immediately to an LCD screen in front of us. I had to laugh though recently when some bozo in his office accidentally erased a bunch, including mine. It was a lot harder to lose or destroy the old-style x-ray films. One of his assistants shot a new batch at the office’s expense.

The old-fashioned and mechanical nature of most dental procedures are bad and good. On the former side, the smells, sounds and pain are stereotypical and fodder for comedians. (I do know one dentist who confessed that he always liked the scent of a tooth being drilled.) I tend not to take Novacain or other numbing agents, preferring the short duration of pain to longer slurring, dribbling and maybe even cheek biting. I’ve never come to terms with the noises and smells.

On the plus side, you can likely trust people who work with their hands. Trust the judgment and skill of a surgeon before those of a GP or internist. The surgeon is a mechanic, who can see and touch the problem. The disadvantaged primary care physician has to listen, educe and filter often invisible, impalpable symptoms, before making a best guess and most likely treatment. Good luck with that and hope that the patient’s body does its usual healing tricks.

Dentists are in that class that includes orthopedic surgeons and plumbers. They see the problems and most time can repair or replace as needed. They use some pretty crude tools and often serious brute force in the process. Hey, they’re fixers.

Tags: harrumphharrumpherdentiststoolsmechanicsimplants


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