Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Getting another taste of some good dental care

I hate surprises.

People who say things like that are talking about bad surprises, not good surprises.

For example, winning the lottery would be a good surprise. But finding out you have a flat tire, a leaky toilet that is adding $100 to your water bill or liver for dinner would not be good news.
Those would be examples of bad surprises.

I once worked for a publisher who told me he had an aversion to surprises. He explained what he meant by that.

If you are ever going to write an editorial that is guaranteed to rile up a lot of subscribers, he confided to me, let me know in advance so I can be prepared for the phone calls and I can defend you. He didn’t like surprises.

That was awfully decent of him. He didn’t want to censor any of my high octane rants. He just wanted advance warning so he wouldn’t get any surprises on the phone.

I got a surprise of my own the other day, and it was not the good kind. I was eating lunch with the boys and I chewed on something that was not meant to be ingested.

I took it out of my mouth and inspected it. It looked very much like part of a tooth.

It was actually part of a crown that had cracked and broken off a tooth. A hasty probing with my tongue determined precisely from whence it had come.

And my thoughts went rushing back to about 1937.

Some of you probably can’t remember that far back, but when I explain what happened you will understand why the memory is cemented in my mind.

We were playing football (tackle, not touch) at recess at Chester School.

We were in the fourth grade, perhaps the fifth. Harlow Whiting was running with the football. He was one of the best players in the class, along with Clay Eddy and Raymond Mansfield.

I tried to stop Harlow with a diving tackle. What I received in return was the heel of his shoe — squarely in the mouth.

The impact broke a V-shaped notch in two of my bottom teeth. My mother took me to Dr. Blackmer in Wickliffe and he installed a couple of gold jackets on the broken teeth.

Those gold teeth stayed with me for a long time. They were on the bottom, so they weren’t too prominent, but I never cared for them.

I’ll tell you how long I had those gold caps. I was stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas, in 1954 and one day I went to the dentist for a check-up. Don’t let anyone hand you any negative stories about Army dentists. This guy was fresh out of dental school at the University of Tennessee and he was great.

I told him I didn’t like gold teeth, and asked him if he could replace them with white crowns.

He said he wasn’t allowed to do that unless the gold caps were damaged. Well, I came up with a plan. Why don’t you drill through the gold caps, I suggested. Then they will be damaged and you can replace them with white caps.

He liked the idea. Said he could use some experience in that area. So he proceeded with the white caps, and they served me very well. Until 1991, actually, when my good friend, the late Dr. Jim McCann, replaced them with brand new white crowns.

It was one of them that I cracked the other day. I was playing in the Leadership Lake County golf outing last Monday, and on the way stopped at my dentist’s office to check the tooth damage. Dr. Bill Nelson is within walking distance of the golf course. Before Jim’s retirement, he and Bill were partners in Mentor. Then Bill built his new building in Concord.

Bill looked the tooth over, ordered an X-ray and checked my records. “It looks like Dr. McCann installed this crown in 1991,” he said. I said that sounded about right.

I played golf with the fractured crown, returned next day to the dentist’s for a temporary crown, and in less that three weeks I will be back for the permanent crown. The temporary looks so nice and feels so natural that I swear it could last forever, but I will nevertheless give it up when the real crown arrives in town.

Dentistry is one of those fields of endeavor in which I admire perfection, and I will tell you without the slightest hesitation that Jim McCann was a perfectionist and Bill Nelson is also a perfectionist.

So I am not concerned what my new tooth jacket is going to look like. It will without question be beautiful. I only wish Harlow Whiting could see it.


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