One of the benefits of being a certain age is you can really appreciate changes you've seen in the long span of your own life. Take dentistry, for example. People of a certain age are likely to have been so traumatized as children by their often hideous experiences in the dentist's chair -- in my case, drills that ran on wheels and a pulley that felt like it was being powered by hamsters -- that even the mention of the word "dentist" would send them diving under the bed in terror. Even a relatively short time ago, getting a crown was a messy, multi-visit piece of awfulness involving drool and spit and bone-rattling drilling.
Well, no more. A few days ago, I had to go get two crowns and a root canal to save my poor 50+ year-old wisdom tooth. I was dreading the day because throughout my life every time anyone used the word "root canal," the response was a ghastly scream and a shudder. But I was delightedly dumbfounded to learn how far dentistry has come in just a few years. My local Los Osos dentist, Dr. Duffy DeGraw, took over from my (retired) dentist and he's a young whippersnapper out of school with all the latest up-to-date learning, technical know-how and a sincere commitment to keep the patient pain-free and comfortable, right down to asking you what kind of music you want to listen to during the procedure. (They weren't offering a small glass of fine wine, but I suspect that'll be next. )
So, I'm laying there midway through all the high-speed whizz-banging and I feel them sticking some kind of something into my mouth and hear a rapid tick-tick-tick-tick. Puzzled, I ask what's going on and sit up to see Dr. Duffy working on an odd-looking machine with a flat screen on top, and on the screen was a 3-D topographical map of my jaw and teeth in all their weird computer-generated glory. (Creepy, too, because my disembodied jaw on the screen resembled some sort of prehistoric Megalosaur's choppers.)
The tick-tick-tick was the laser "reading" the topography of my teeth and jaw, which it then generated into the 3-D teeth image (which could be turned every way but loose on the screen.) Dr. Duffy then proceeded to make various marks on the screen, outlining the perimeters he wanted, then, basically, hit the "print" button.
He asked if I wanted to go see what happens next, so I scampered into the lab room. There, a machine was set to go. Between two very small drills was a block of porcelain. The drills started spinning, zeeeet-zeeeet-zeeet, amidst cooling water jets, drilling out and forming a perfectly carved out porcelain "crown." First one was cut free and fell with a plop into the catch-bin. Then it was ready for a new cube for a new crown. .
With a bit of trying on, the crowns were then heat-annealed to full hardness, then dropped down on my teeth, glued in place, and out the door I went. 2 1/2 hours start to finish.
And the only pain involved was to my bank account.