The Story of 6
I’m looking at the monitor. In front of me, 20 times its normal size is the digital x-ray of the 6 year molar, the first large tooth in our mouth. It’s also the first grown up grinding tooth to arrive, in what can only be considered hostile territory. Over the next 6 years, reinforcements will continually arrive, positioning themselves around him. But he?s the first grown up on the block. Baby teeth looked up to him. Never had they seen anything so big with such huge muscular roots anchoring him in place. But it?s a few years later now, maybe more and displayed on the x-ray, in black-and-white is a snapshot of a bombed out shell, a World War II photo, caved in. He?s badly wounded. Then a voice interrupts: ”Can you save it, Doc?”
Can I save it? Are you kidding? I save everything. Those close to me, call it clutter. I call it conservation. My propensity to cover horizontal surfaces notwithstanding, I believe in saving the whales, small boxes and all body-parts. So I began questioning Caregiver who brought Six in. He didn’t have much information. He was finishing off a Diet Coke, crunching up the last bits of ice. “When bam… I bite down and the roof caves in”
“Was there any warning?” I ask.
“Not much” he said. “Although he did hurt every time I chewed something a little tough. And if anything cold touched him, it would send me through the roof …. sweet things too, for that matter. So I just started chewing on the other side. How could this happen?” he asks. I explain about the relentless acid -attacks that finally breached Six?s body armor. He blinks at me.
“You know”, I say, “those sodas are as strong as battery acid. Once Six?s body armor was penetrated, he didn’t stand a chance. Termite- like bacteria got through the breach and ate away his insides. The cold sensitivity was the sign. He was screaming for help but you missed it. That last piece of ice just caved in a roof that had nothing supporting it. But most of the damage was done way before the cave in. He’s going to need all new body armor. But first we?ve got to clean out the termites, and unfortunately they’ve gotten into Six?s roots. That’s why he is in constant pain. He’s got 3 really huge roots. So that’s good. We can save him, but he’ll be a bit bionic, sort of a Robo- Tooth.”
“Will he be OK, Doc?” he asks
“It won?t be as good as when he first arrived in your jaw” I say.”He was young and strong back then. That?s when you needed the intelligence briefing on rules of engagement: How to survive in hostile territory. But we can do some amazing things. We?ll make him strong and we?ll make him look like he used to. He just won?t be able to feel pain anymore”.
At this Caregiver?s eyes light up. “Wow, that?s great! No more pain”
”Well yes and no” I say, “Pain does have a very important function. It?s an early warning sign that something?s wrong. Our body?s CHECK ENGINE light. So now Six won? be able to warn you should the termites penetrate his new armor. You?ll have to bring him in every 500 or 600 meals so we can check for signs of new termite attacks. I recommend we poison them also. We?ll drop 5 grams of Xylitol on them a day. Good for you but bad for them. And let?s blast them with a Water Flosser. That will clean out the little caves between your teeth where termites love to hang out.”
Caregiver starts to mentally calculate the cost. “Maybe we should pull him out Doc. I could use the money on other things. And he?s not my only Grinder. The others should be able to carry on without him, right?”
Caregiver?s words sadden me. I?m a saver remember, a conservationist. Losing Six violates everything I believe in. But it?s his call. He?s Commander in Chief of the Grinders. He takes a deep breath.
“No, I?ve let him down, Doc. We?ve crunched some really great stuff over the years. He was looking forward to all the Christmas grinding. Let?s save him, Doc. I owe him that much” Caregiver?s eyes are moist. He looks up at me, “It would have been a lot cheaper before the cave-in, right Doc?”
”Yeah” I say…”you definitely should have paid more attention to the „check-engine? light when it first lit you up.” He smiles, “I know…” To be continued.
855 W. Bell Road, Suite 600
Nogales, AZ 85621
December 2011, article published in the Nogales International
& January 2012 in Border Echo Magazine