Sunday, January 17, 2021

"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Tooth"

By Jerry Zezima

When it comes to mad scientists, there was no one madder than the Invisible Man, whose Hollywood smile couldn’t be seen because, of course, he was wearing invisible braces.

I have a Hollywood smile because I have been wearing invisible braces for several years. So when one of my two retainers recently cracked, which was probably the result of a wisecrack, I watched as Dr. Max Sanacore, who isn’t a mad scientist (otherwise, he’d be known as Mad Max) but does work in a laboratory, made me a new one.

Actually, Dr. Max is in his last year at the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine on Long Island, New York, where he is the latest in a string of student orthodontists who have made sure that my pearly whites stay on the straight and narrow.

The root (see: wisecrack, above) of the problem was that my right upper lateral incisor began to rotate like the tires on my car. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to a mechanic. To compound matters, my left central lower incisor started to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the key difference being that tourists couldn’t see it because I always had my foot in my mouth.

I went to Stony Brook and got invisible braces, a pair of clear plastic devices that slowly but effectively straightened my two wayward teeth. It was a lot better than getting the metal kind, which look like miniature railroad tracks and put beer drinkers like me in danger of being hit by flying refrigerator magnets.

After the bottom retainer split, without so much as a goodbye note, I went back to Stony Brook and saw Dr. Max.

“First,” he said as I settled into the chair, “I have to make an impression.”

“I think you’re very impressive,” I told him.

“Thanks,” he said. “Now please open your mouth.”

Peering into the oral equivalent of the Grand Canyon, Dr. Max filled a metal tray with alginate, a gooey substance that contains seaweed, which made me want to cry for kelp, and pressed it over my bottom teeth.

“Can you breathe?” he asked.

“Ong, ong, ong,” I responded affirmatively.

For a full minute, I drooled with the force of Niagara Falls, which at my age happens with alarming frequency.

When the molar eclipse was over, Dr. Max took me into a back room that looked like a laboratory where a mad scientist might conduct a hideous experiment on an unsuspecting patient whose brain would be transplanted into the head of a gorilla.

Fortunately for apes everywhere, I don’t have the kind of gray matter that could possibly do them any good. In fact, the gray matter that would become my new bottom retainer was being molded and heated by Dr. Max.

“You could train a monkey to do this,” he said.

“Not with my brain,” I replied.

Dr. Max, who has more than a smattering of smarts, originally studied engineering.

“On my last day of college, I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to be an engineer. I want to be a dentist.’ So I came here,” said Dr. Max, who’s 30 and will graduate in June. “Then I’ll have to get a real job,” he added.

For now, he’s doing great work, the most important being the creation of my new bottom retainer. He showed me how to pour the alginate, put it in a vibrating machine to get the air bubbles out and heat it up in another machine so, he said, “it’s nice and malleable.” Then he trimmed it into shape.

Later that afternoon, the retainer was ready. I snapped it onto my bottom teeth.

“Perfect!” I exclaimed.

“Now you can keep your Hollywood smile,” said Dr. Max.

“Thanks,” I said. “The Invisible Man would be jealous.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

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