The Dental Arts

I may be a bridgetender, but like an onion, I have many layers. I also have a degree in Dental Laboratory Technology and Management. I am fascinated with dental appliances and their fabrication. I graduated with honors. I had big dreams.

Not that those dreams went anywhere. After applying to 200 different labs with no viable offers, and after seeing that dental appliance technology is outpacing the little mom and pop labs that I hoped to be a part of, and after having a wrist surgery that would have made it extremely painful to do the fine motor movements required on a day to day basis, I wised up and went back to bridgetending.

But the fascination remains. So when I needed a crown replaced, I was delighted to see it’s entire design and creation chairside. We’ve certainly come a long way from the days when you had to get a gloopy, bad-tasting mold taken of your teeth, then come back weeks later to have a crown fitted that had been fabricated in an offsite lab.

Instead, they popped off my old crown, and took photographs of my teeth from every possible angle, and then, voila! A three-dimensional image of my teeth appeared on the computer screen. It was fascinating.

From there, Mary, the technologist, created a crown for me on screen. Make no mistake, this was no flimsy endeavor. This takes skill in both science and art. She has to have knowledge of oral anatomy and how various teeth interact with one another. And she also must create a final product that will not only be functional but also aesthetically pleasing. That’s an admirable talent.

I watched her create this tooth and enjoyed imagining her thought process. It was like digital sculpting. Leonardo da Vinci would have been intrigued. And proud.

She consulted with my dentist (a big shout out to Dr. Steven Lockett in Renton, Washington, and his entire amazing staff!) and did a few tweaks based on his suggestions, and then sent the data off to the machine for fabrication. I wish I could have seen that. I know that the machine carves the crown out of little blocks of some mysterious substance that is probably trademarked by the company that created CEREC, the CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) system that my dentist uses.

I could be wrong, but I think of it kind of like 3d printing in reverse. Instead of creating things from a bead-like substance, this machine carves it down from a cube. I mean, seriously, how cool is that?

In no time flat, my crown was hot off the presses, so to speak, and ready to go into my mouth. In it went, and off I went. Just another thing checked off my to-do list. And yet, when I think of the science and artistry that went into the whole endeavor, I still am filled with awe.

By the way, one of my favorite blog posts is the one I wrote entitled Cool Stuff You Never Knew about your Teeth.  Check it out! If you don’t learn at least one thing from it, I’ll eat my hat. With my brand new crown.

https _upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_d_d0_CEREC-kronprep

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Gravity, with all the Bells and Whistles

The other day I went to see the movie Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, in IMAX 3D.

To say that this was not the movie experience of my childhood is putting it mildly. Back then, you went to a shabby little two screen theater, the kind with sticky floors, gum under the seats, and mice running around in the dim light reflected off the movie screen, and you had a perfectly grand time with your popcorn and your raisinets and your tall glass of mostly ice. And it was usually the only place you could go and sit in the air conditioning in the summertime.

Shit, but I’m old.

Anyway, contrast that with my Gravity experience and you’ll see how far we’ve come. The movie was showing at my local multiplex which has about a zillion screens and thick plush carpets and more than one concession stand serving four-course meals and video games in the lobby and… I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but then I realized. This is the sensory overload that is Las Vegas.

Gone are the days when you could shuffle in wearing flip flops and have your purse made out of a pair of jeans slung over your shoulder. No. Going to the movies these days is an event. You have to prepare for it. You have to be present. You almost feel like sending postcards to people. Well, you sort of do, because you’re tweeting and texting your fingers to the bone during the previews.

And talk about sticker shock. Between the 14 dollars just to get in and the ten thousand percent mark up on the food, you practically have to take out a bank loan just to kill two hours of time.

And when did 15 previews become the norm? I mean, previews are usually my favorite part. Previews are a movie boiled down to a thick, rich, dramatic broth. But when they go on for a half hour, you begin to feel like you’re being force fed.

But when the lights went down, rather than noticing mice scurrying in the darkness, I put on those 3D glasses and completely and utterly lost myself in the movie. I was floating in outer space, dodging catastrophes and struggling for air right along with the actors. It wasn’t until the credits began to roll that I began wondering how the heck they pulled off all those weightless special effects. During the movie it just seemed natural. And there could be no better testament than that to the overall experience.

My only gripe is that in each of the three spacecraft, there were ballpoint pens spinning through the air. Don’t you think that NASA, of all organizations, would have figured out how to go paperless by now?