by Kent Fletcher
While in the Navy and stationed in Colorado (a hard life, I know), I had worked my way into the US Air Force Academy’s dental services. My gums were in horrible shape, reminded me of the old joke about the dentist who told his patient, “Your teeth are great, but the gums have got to go.”
Over the course of about two-and-a-half years I had extensive oral surgery from jaw-to-jaw, upper and lower, along with two root canals and two teeth removed.
The dentist, a Lieutenant Colonel, had made an impression of my front teeth to make a permanent bridge. Some several months later, toward the end of all the reconstruction, the time came for the permanent bridge to be put in. He numbed me as much as possible, and then proceeded to whittle four of the teeth from eye-tooth to eye-tooth down to size to look like the post in one of the front incisors primed for the root canal.
I had to wait a few minutes for him to set the glue into the bridge, and the painkiller was fast wearing off. If you can imagine the nerve endings of a tooth exposed to air, well, then you can imagine my pain. I was nearly in tears.
Finally . . . finally, he returned with the bridge and put it in place. Thankfully, there was a pain killer in the glue and the pain went away nearly instantly.
So I sat there with this fellow’s thumb on my front teeth, pressing the bridge to the gum line for about 10 minutes.
He finally let go of the bridge, and my, what a sensation this was! I felt a smooth, enamel-coated gold bridge where I once had nearly no teeth at all. He stepped in front of me and said, “Smile!”
But I couldn’t smile. I could only smirk. He asked me if I were still numb on the right side.
“No, I’m not numb, but I can’t lift my lip.”
He got closer to look and asked me to smile again. I still couldn’t. Then he got a strange look on his face and said, “Hold on, I’ll be right back.”
He left the room for a few minutes and returned with a 35 mm camera. Standing close and aiming the camera at my face, he said again, “Smile, but hold the smile.”
Click, click, click. Then he called one of his fellow dentists into the room and told him, “Look at this!”
This other dentist was a Major, and he had done about 95% of the surgeries on me. He leaned in and said, “Well, I’ll be damned! You’ve glued his lip to the bridge!”
In the course of the next several minutes, more dentists and several airmen came by to look at the fubar. Everyone was jovial and laughing, but I wasn’t.
The LC told me just to relax, he had to give me another shot under the lip. He did that, then slipped a scalpel under my lip and sliced my lip loose. No pain, no gain.
Before I left that day, the LC only said one other thing. “If you tell anyone, especially another dentist about this, I’ll deny every bit of it!”
How I wish I’d known he had a camera before he glued the bridge, for I’d give anything today to have a pic of Fang and the glued lip!
Kent Fletcher is a retired Navy man now living in Texas. He was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta--a magical place from which he pulls memories and stories. He has been writing memoirs and short stories for a couple of years now when he isn't playing/working at woodworking.
You can reach Kent directly at hots64.
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