Thursday, December 02, 2010

Take Care Of Your Teeth

A few years ago I switched dentists and was presented with a "comprehensive plan"as to how I should care for my teeth..."if I'd like to keep all of them." Having been a victim of the large amalgamate fillings that seem to have been so popular in the 1970s, a few of my molars are weak and showing signs of hairline cracks. Suggested crowns here and there sounded like a good idea but valuing new choppers at around 8K (including whitening, of course) was a bit (or a bite) out of the question. In the meantime, a few replaced fillings (in white!) would hopefully hold things over so that those crowns could be introduced over a few years.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. While chomping on a chip at Baja Fresh, I heard a sound that was out of the ordinary. Like a strong magnet, my tongue was drawn to the space where a quadrant of my molar had left its rightful spot. A sinking feeling in my stomach ensued...

Now what? Of course it was time to face the music and make a call to Dr. Dechter's office:

"Reason for visit?"
"Broken molar."
"See you tomorrow."

Insert Darth Vader theme music here!

So I walked into the office fully expecting a lecture about the preemptive care I refused to take. What I got instead was, "well, you dragged your feet and technology caught up with you."


It turns out that Dr. Dechter is boasting a new technique in tooth repair (and I'm ecstatic about it!). It's called CEREC and involves preserving as much of the remaining tooth as possible by removing only the leftover filling and accrued decay. Then a dust is sprayed on the tooth so a special photo can be taken. A computer-generated image appears on the screen so the dentist can form a perfect match for the missing piece. The message is then sent back to a machine in the lab which cuts a piece of porcelain to the exact specifications. Just minutes later, incredibly strong adhesives lock the new piece in place.

Besides the beauty of preserving most of the tooth (rather than grinding it to a nub so a crown can be applied), the cost is only about $100 more than a crown. Plus it is all completed in 1 1/2 hours!

I'm a believer!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Hunger Games

So how did this middle-aged bald guy end up getting riveted by a trilogy of young-adult science fiction novels?

In recent weeks, Z has been proclaiming the virtues of author Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy. Eventually, Julie picked up the books and has been moving through them at a ridiculously rapid pace. (Staying up until 4am over Thanksgiving break is one way to make that happen. Right, Julie!?) I guess all of this excitement has proven contagious, and here I now am, getting close to wrapping up the second book.

As proof that "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are," I find myself ascribing some perhaps unusual meanings to the pages that I'm turning. (As this isn't a review I'm writing here, you can check out any number of websites to get yourself up to speed, if interested.)

On the heels of our visit this summer to the area of China that borders North Korea and my reading of Barbara Demick's outstanding Nothing to Envy, I seem to be connecting a lot of what is going on in The Hunger Games to a certain impoverished and oppressed nation.

There is a capital city that is gleaming and modern when compared to the rest of the country. A city where hovercrafts fly, residents cover their bodies with outlandish painted designs, and the meals are feasts straight out of Willy Wonka's imagination. A city where no one is allowed to live or even visit, unless they have been hand-selected for the honor. (That's actually the way it is in Pyongyang, by the way. The parts about opulence and restricted movement. No signs of hovercrafts...yet.)

There are outlying provinces where people starve to death, or eat the bark off of trees in an effort to ward off the pangs of hunger. (North Korea has lost perhaps ten percent of its population to malnutrition over the past two decades. And because of the stunting of the growth of an entire generation, the military has lowered its minimum height requirements.)

There are electricity blackouts. And news blackouts, with the state totally controlling and manipulating what gets onto the airwaves and what gets censored. (There is no Internet in North Korea. And north of the Line of Demarcation is essentially all black when photographed from the sky at night.)

There is the absolute authority of the leadership and strict chain of command that enforces law and order right down to the smallest of community dwellings. (Family members sometimes serve as snitches against one another in Kim Jong-il's North Korea.)

The Hunger Games really are gripping books that I'm finding hard to put down. And I'm really finding it hard to get those little glimpses into North Korea out of my mind...