"H'mm, gosh. We'll be working that tooth -- there's a new spot of decay on the outside, and more decay around an old filling on the inside, so that one will have to come out and get redone. But the tooth in front of it, the filling it it doesn't look great...."
(A minor infinity of awkwardness, drilling, vibration both shrill and coarse, rinsing, suctioning, "Turn just a little toward my assistant, okay" and so on.)
"So, we've got the old filling out -- my, wasn't it a big one! -- and I can get a really good look at the teeth on each side and their fillings.* That one filling looks really loose. Let me just see if I can..." And she picked and prodded at it with various instruments. Nope. Filling remained stubbornly in place. "I guess it's okay. It just looks like it's in there funny."
I have had the same dentist for over twenty-five years; she took a few years off to look after her parents but other than that, if I have a filling,† she did the work. She proceeded to fill in the other two fillings with silver (et heavy metal cetera) amalgam,‡ which I didn't know was still used much; turns out it is still stronger and does a better job inhibiting decay than the nice tooth-color stuff. Finally, she got to the smoothing-out and sculpting stage of the filling:
"Okay, I'll just run some floss down each side and make sure you'll be able to get between them," which she then did, a little. I felt an odd sensation and she interrupted herself with, "Hunh, that's funny..." Long pause. "It fell out! That filling I was working at earlier? It just fell out." She took the lump of metal off my tongue and spent some time peering at the void. "Doesn't look real good in there--"
There was another small eternity of drilling and clearing and rinsing and drying and medicating and filling and smoothing and-- She got it done. I was late to work.
Ahh, dentistry! Those were my two best chewing teeth -- yes, when it comes to molars, I'm down to that -- so it's been an interesting and slow-eating 22 hours since.
* Other than my two upper front teeth and one of the lower, all of the teeth I have left have fillings. My dental hygiene as a child wasn't any better than any of my peers -- but I inherited teeth of problematic durability from both sides.
† Or a band around a tooth, which I had for awhile, in an attempt to save a molar. She applied that in a hurry, shortly before her time away, and somehow it didn't get noted on my chart. My first checkup with the dentist who was filling (haha!) in for her, he came to that tooth and exclaimed, "A ring! How did that get on there?" I didn't remember; it was an 0700 appointment and I was half-awake. "It got married?" I ventured. He had to ponder that for a second.
‡ Yes, there is still some mercury in there. Hey, I shoot, I solder electronic things; the mercury from a few fillings, it's way too late to fret over. My dentist hasn't gone mad yet, and she not only works with the stuff every day, she's got as many fillings as I do.
7 months ago