2021-11-22_mark_rutleddge

The light above the dentist’s chair becomes brighter with every tooth that does not yet receive its wings.

Settling into the full-blown senior citizenship of life’s seventh decade gets more interesting by the day — especially when routine age-related maladies multiply all at once.

While enjoying a bowl of cereal one recent morning, I chomped onto something that was unmistakably not a rock-like chunk of granola. A tooth had broken clean off at the gum.

After that unpleasant experience, it was off to the dermatologist for my 6-month removal of bumps that are either one form or another of skin cancer or well on their way toward that designation. With the knowledge that a lot of people in my age group are battling far worse things, it was a relatively fun day.

As a fair-skinned human being who ignorantly soaked up a lot of sun during his teenage years, I have been having abnormal skin eruptions routinely carved or frozen away since my late 20s. It was around that time, also, that my first tooth broke off.

Like the more recent broken tooth, the earlier one had been root-canaled and crowned. I remember the dentist’s telling me there was not enough tooth material left to hold another crown, and that’s when I started making payments on a dental bridge.

Because the nerve had been killed in the recently broken tooth, there is no pain. I tried to dwell on that positive note as the dermatology nurse was sticking the numbing needle into my shoulders and chest.

“At least my tooth doesn’t hurt,” I thought while using my tongue to explore the sharp edges of my newest gap.

As numbing needles go, this one actually ranked on the low end of the one-to-10 pain scale. As she was preparing the needle, I shared with her the same “Tale of Two Nose-Numbings” story that I tell every new dermatology person who is about to numb me up for a carving.

It starts with my first experience with needle stabs into what has to be at least the second most tender spot of the human body. Roughly five were delivered by an insensitive man with a horrible exam-table-side manner. I still have nightmares.

Years later, an older and kinder dermatologist was about to numb my nose again for the same reason. I asked if he might consider just shooting me with a pistol instead.

“This is not going to be as bad as you think,” the good doctor said. “I use a pinching technique that helps quite a bit.”

I hardly felt the needle at all, and I called him “Magic Man” from that day forward.

Either “Wonder Woman” took my story to heart the other day, or she had the same injection instructor as Magic Man. She pinched a little during multiple sticks, and the pain was minimal.

It might have helped that my mind was distracted by pondering how painful one of those tooth-implant procedures was going to be. A bridge is not a good option for this one.

Later, in the dentist’s lounge chair, my day became brighter. Looking at the X-ray of my toothy trevail, my dentist pointed out how beautiful and healthy the roots of my broken tooth are below the gum. “You really think so?” I asked with a gap-toothed grin.

Not only that, he’s going to install a post and a new crown. So I don’t have to do the implant thing after all.

“Super Hero.” That’s my dentist’s new name. But only because Tooth Fairy has already been taken.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com.

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Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com.