It’s Dental Day.

Martha, my favorite dental hygienist, cleans my teeth. Then Ran, my favorite dentist, comes in for his inspection. He takes special note of one particular tooth.

“This tooth had a cavity that wasn’t filled, the tooth died, we did a root canal — as was proper — but the tooth is weakened and susceptible to breaking. My dental textbook tells me to crown it. You don’t want it to break, to have it pulled, then to have a partial plate.”

This tooth is fourth from the lower front. No, I don’t want it to break and have to be pulled, and I don’t want a blank space there, and I don’t want a partial plate, so I agree to a crown and make an appointment for a few weeks away.

But tonight a white-haired gentleman I encounter on a hilltop in the park, where I go to catch a breeze on this sultry evening, begins a conversation with me. We’ve talked before — we’re both park regulars — and he just happens to mention his recent dental work: a crown.

“There was no pain, but there was the smell of the grinding of my tooth — the grinding away of my own flesh and bone.” He grimaces. “I asked to see a mirror. The dental assistant said: ‘Oh, you don’t want to see this.’ But I did. . . . My tooth was a stump. That didn’t bother me. What did bother me was the smell of the grinding.”

It’s now the next morning, and as I eat my steel-cut oats I think about all this. I stop in the middle of a chew to see where the food is in my mouth. No oats rest on the dead tooth. The oats are resting on my back molars.

Think, Ernestina, I tell myself. Don’t just take Ran’s advice even if he is a good dentist.

Do I really need a crown? My teeth are strong. They’ve never broken before, just chipped. The cavity in this tooth developed because the tooth is small, and when brushing I tended to hop over it.

Suddenly it hits me: another definition of crown is “to hit on the head”. Tom’s talk about his crown was a hit on my head that awakened me. I have a tendency to fall asleep, to let someone else make my decisions. I need to remember to give myself time to think. Visualize the Reality.

Ran plans to grind down my tooth to a stump, then cover it with something artificial. Is agreeing to a crown like paying insurance to cover an event that probably won’t happen?

“Stand on your own two feet and make your own decision,” Tom said, just before we said good-by last evening.

So lucky to have run into Tom.



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My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 3-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.