Monday, January 23, 2006

The Color of My Teeth

I recently had one of those painful episodes that serve no other purpose but to tell you that you are getting on in years and things that you once did without any thought (like cracking a hundred betel nuts with your teeth) are better left to the youngsters. I had a tooth extracted. Specifically I had to bid my upper left 1st bicuspid (the 1st canine tooth on the left -- for those who don't understand dental-speak) a goodbye.

Since my upper left 1st bicuspid and I parted ways, my dentist had been trying to convince me to get on with living and get myself another upper left 1st bicuspid.

"Life is long. How will you get on without a bicuspid?" my dentist would say.

My family and friends too joined hands in trying to get me to agree with my dentist.

"At least try it once. It is no harm in seeing. . ." And more along the same lines.

Fresh from my sorrow of having lost a much loved (and loyal) tooth, I resisted. Like all good men, I escaped from those who were trying to tempt me. I went into the desert, thinking a stay there would get the others off my back and help me clear my thoughts. I escaped to Phoenix, Arizona for three weeks.

Well it didn't help. A few days after I was back, the issue of replacing my upper left 1st bicuspid was broached again and from that time onwards, seasoned negotiators brought a lot of pressure on me. Eventually I succumbed.

Last week I told my dentist that I was finally ready for a new upper left 1st bicuspid. But contrary to what others were telling me all this time getting a new upper left 1st bicuspid wasn't as easy as walking into a dentist's office and simply asking for one.

Apparently you have to be prepared mentally and the other teeth, especially the immediate neighbors (upper left cuspid and upper left 2nd bicuspid) have to be cajoled and given some extra attention so that they welcome the new neighbor. So I had another long session with my dentist during which he trimmed and drilled and trimmed and drilled and whittled my cuspids and bicuspids. The excavation work he did would put MMRDA to shame. At the end it he pronounced me ready for a new upper left 1st bicuspid.

But before I actually got one, there were still a few more things that needed to be cleared, my dentist gravely informed me.
"You have to decide exactly the kind of tooth you want."
"Duh!!? I want an upper left 1st bicuspid."
He smiled. "Do you want your bicuspid to be entirely of ceramic, or ceramic over metal, or of noble metal?"
"Noble metal?"
"No way."
"Okay, though in the long run noble metal is the best."
"I wouldn't live long with some shiny yellow thing in my mouth."

We finally settled upon a bicuspid that was made of "vitalium covered with ceramic." Measurements were taken -- I had to bite into some gooey, sticky stuff. And I thought, that was it. But I was mistaken. Turned out that I had to visit the dental lab that was actually going to fabricate my tooth.

"Why? You already have the measurements."
"The lab might want to measure you again. And they have to see your teeth for a color-match."
"Color-match? Why? Aren't teeth white?"
"Well, not quite."

So an appointment was made for me with the dental lab in Thane on last Friday afternoon. I left office early and traveled to this place for a "color-match and measurements." When I reached the lab it turned out that didn't need to measure the insides of my mouth again -- the moulds that my dentist had made were adequate. All that was left to find was the right color for my prosthetic bicuspid so that it matched my other teeth.

I grumbled a bit under my breath about people wasting other people's time for they can't pick out white from a shade card. The assistant who was going to do the color matching, shook his head a bit indulgently and asked me to smile.

He held various false teeth against the originals in my mouth, but couldn't seem to get a fix. I for one couldn't understand what the confusion was.

"What's the problem?" I asked him a tad impatiently after grinning at him for about 10 minutes.

"2M or 3M?" was his cryptic reply.

So he called the dentist who was the big noise in the lab. The dentist in turn asked me to smile and again held the various false teeth against my actual teeth. I never knew smiling could be so embarrassing.

And the two started discussing the color of my teeth.
"It's a classic 2M," said the dentist. "It's white. . ."
"But sir," interrupted the assistant holding a false tooth up and looking at my teeth appraisingly, "White is too bright for his teeth."
"You B@$%%#*!!!!" that was me voicing an opinion (to myself) about the assistant.
"Hmm. . .Yes, you are right," said the dentist and turned to me, "Smile please, wider. . . Yes, they are kind of gray."
"You So# @$%%#!!!!" that was me thinking nice thoughts about the dentist.
"Actually if you look closer," and they both peered at my teeth again, "it is gray going on to 2M white. 3M to 2M."
"Yes, Sir." and the assistant drew an outline of a tooth in his notebook and neatly wrote 3M + 2M next to his handiwork.
"Let us check the corresponding tooth on the other side of his mouth just to be sure."
"Good idea, sir."
"Smile please."

I obliged and as they both squinted at my eyes again I was kicking myself for:
(A) Having got myself into a situation where strangers were discussing the color of my teeth, and
(B) For not having the foresight of eating a vada-pav with dollops of garlicky chutney before getting to the lab.

"I think we should check in natural light."
"Yes, Sir. We'll know the exact shade of gray."
I wanted to beat the assistant to a nice shade of black and blue.

So I stepped out to a small balcony and once again went through the me-smiling-and-the-other-two-peering-at-my-teeth routine.

"You are right Sir, as always. It is gray going on to 2M white."
The dentist looked like he had just received the biggest compliment in his life.
"Comes with experience of looking and color-matching matching more than a 1000 teeth."
"You," I couldn't resist murmuring, "have had an interesting life."
"Nothing. I was just mumbling to myself. Do I have to smile again?"
"No, just open your mouth wide and keep your tongue firmly down on the floor of your mouth. We now want to do a color-match for the tooth on the inside."

So I opened my mouth wide and tried to keep my tongue firmly down on the floor of my mouth.

"Yellow," the assistant hazarded. I should have told the B@$%%#* the dentist would over rule him anyway but I was busy thinking how far would he fall and how much would he bounce if I kicked him really hard.
"Orange," said the dentist. I started fantasizing how far I could kick the dentist.
"It is as orange as an orange," and he appeared to like the sound of it for he repeated it twice, once for the benefit of the assistant and since he really loved the sound of it, once more for himself.

The assistant wrote in capitals in his notebook "ORANGE INSIDE."

My leg was twitching.

"You might have to come next week," the assistant said, "so that we can check and be sure that the color matches."

I was peeved."What?!! You both had a nice long look and a discussion on the color of my teeth. What more will you do when I . . ."

"Ah!" said the dentist shaking his head wisely and smiling (I noticed his teeth were brown and was that a shade of red? No. Definitely that was maroon on the 2nd and 3rd teeth). "Youngsters. You are always in a hurry. I don't think you need to come. You can trust my color sense. When I say it is gray and orange, it can only be that."
I was just about ready to knock his brown and red (no, maroon) teeth to the back of his throat. But I said, "I am lucky you were here to color-match my teeth."

The dentist smiled (His teeth were definitely brown and maroon) and accepted my compliment.
"Yes, yes. But it would help if we could just confirm my judgement. Please come again on Wednesday."

This Wednesday I am definitely eating that vada-pav with an extra helping of garlic chutney before I go to the lab.

And the next time you smile at yourself in the mirror, check if your teeth are white going on to gray (2M to 3M) or just bright white (2M) or gray (3M).

And don't forget the inside: Yellow or orange?


Sherri said...

AS soon as I get my braces off I'm getting my teeth whitened. Two years of inadequate brushing due to an excess of metal appendages in one's mouth will leave their mark.

However, at least you will have an aethetically color matched smile. For a while. Avoid the tea.

Anonymous said...

I went through something similar and for all the hulla, I ended with supposedly similar looking tooth, now looking like the tooth out of place!

Debangana said...

You kicking someone!!!!! Quite a circus it would be, next time you visit this dentist, please let me know, will accompany you. ;)