A tale of teeth

For the past four weeks I have had a toothache in the back right lower molar (dentists call this tooth number 31). After some probing and x-rays, it turned out to be an infection below the gum line. The bacteria were having a party inside the molar, and my molar didn’t like it.

Most of the time, dentists can take out the infection and replace the top of the natural tooth with a “crown.” But because the site of infection was below the gum line (and therefore impossible to keep clean), we all agreed that the best course of action was to replace it with an implant, which is an artificial tooth, anchored to the bone.

Yesterday was the first part of this process–they extracted the tooth. After getting the pain killer injected into the area, it’s surprising how little time it took to pull out a tooth (about 30 seconds). In the place where the tooth was, they put in a type of bone graft powder. Don’t ask where they get that powder. Okay, I’ll tell you: it’s from cadavers.

For the rest of yesterday, I was in pain management mode, and I found out that I don’t do well with the narcotics that they prescribe for pain. I’m more of an ibuprofen man (this from decades of U.S. Navy medicine). However, today, I’m much better. I can even lightly buzz my lips. The dental surgeon said that I could try playing after three days.

The next phase with be in August, when I have a tungsten screw put into the bone. They will let this get settled for another three months, and then they will put on an artificial crown, which will look like a regular tooth.

I am grateful for this process and for the prospect of continued trumpet playing for a long time. Nevertheless, I thought I take this opportunity to list a few things to keep in mind about your teeth, which are so important to your trumpet playing.

  1. Brush your teeth twice a day. Use an electric toothbrush with soft bristles. Brush for about 2 minutes, getting all the surfaces right down to the gum line.
  2. Floss once a day. Do this without fail.
  3. Use a mouthwash like Listerine.
  4. Get a dental checkup every year.
  5. Get a tooth cleaning at the dentist office twice a year.
  6. Make sure you have figured out a way to afford your visits to the dentist.
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