Friday, November 20, 2009

"Construction Project"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

When I think of history’s classic constructions – the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Green Monster at Fenway Park – I naturally think of the Seven Wonders of the World. But there is another one that is so impressive, so outstanding, so absolutely fantastic that it should be added to the list.

I refer to the braces on my teeth, which ought to be called the Great Project of Geezer.

This architectural marvel has been engineered and constructed by Dr. Ben Murray, an orthodontic resident at the Stony Brook University Dental Care Center on Long Island, N.Y.

I have braces because a couple of my teeth have shifted, which is pretty remarkable considering I can’t shift for myself. According to Murray, this isn’t uncommon among baby boomers, especially those who, like me, didn’t have braces as a kid.

I got mine about a year ago in the right upper side of my mouth. Every month since then, Murray has worked on this construction project. He hasn’t worn a hard hat or used a jackhammer. And he hasn’t, thank God, needed dynamite. But he has employed tools such as a screwdriver and, during one memorable appointment, a blowtorch, which fortunately wasn’t applied directly to my mouth. None of it has hurt a bit.

In a recent office visit, Murray drew up a blueprint of his work and explained it in layman’s terms so even I could understand it.

"We’re working on the right buccal segment of the maxillary arch to distalize that area and correct the Class 2 malocclusion," he said.

"Ong, ong, ong," I replied, because Murray was still working on my teeth. When he was done, he explained further.

"The lateral incisor is severely rotated," he said. It sounded like one of the tires on my car. At least he didn’t call it a snaggletooth. Then I would have been like Snaggletooth, also known as Snagglepuss, the cartoon mountain lion ("Heavens to Murgatroyd!") on the old Yogi Bear TV show.

"The whole right side has moved forward," Murray continued. "This mesial shift is common in adults."

To straighten out this mess, Murray has embarked on an engineering job involving screws, springs, wires, brackets and anchor pins. It’s like a suspension bridge. The only thing missing is an E-ZPass lane.

When Murray showed me his drawing, which resembled either a football play or plans for a housing development, he said, "I have put braces on the upper right teeth from the second molar to the canine. Then I put a TAD, also called a temporary anchorage device, between the premolars and I distalized the second molar. The pin stabilizes the second molar and the first premolar. I retracted the first molar off the second molar and pushed the second molar back off the first premolar."

It all made perfect sense. The only glitch came when the pin, which was inserted in the outside of my gums, loosened due to hard brushing and wasn’t strong enough to anchor the wire pulling my teeth backward. So Murray ingeniously put another TAD in my palatal mucosa on the inside. It has worked like a charm.

Even though they are mostly hidden by my cheek, these aren’t your ordinary braces. Murray must keep adjusting them to move my teeth backward so there will be room to rotate the incisor to its original position. This should take a few more months, at which point I will be fitted with "invisible braces," which will cover all my teeth and straighten not only the incisor but the other crooked tooth, which is on the bottom in front. Or Row A, Seat 2 in your theater program.

In the meantime, I am going to start a campaign to nominate Murray for an International Architecture Award. The best way, of course, is by word of mouth.

Copyright 2009 by Jerry Zezima

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