The placement of implants proves a breeze — much less traumatic than extraction. A supervised resident numbs my jaw with lidocaine, cuts and peels back the gums, then drills four holes into the mandible. She uses what machinists call a tap to slowly cut threads inside my bone, then screws a threaded implant into each hole. Finally she screws in temporary abutments and sews my gums around the base of each. Regarding her handiwork in a mirror afterward, I see what look like four stainless-steel nail heads hovering at the gum line.After a visit to have my stitches removed, I need to wait four months for jawbone to bond with the titanium, a process called osseointegration.
When I come back, my mandible earns another "Gorgeous!" from Ochs. A resident makes a mold of my teeth so a lab can fabricate lower molars.
En route to my final appointment six weeks later, I make a detour to the grocery store for pretzels and mixed nuts. When I arrive at the office, resident Faraj Sedeqi, D.D.S., replaces each temporary abutment with a permanent one and installs my bionic teeth. In less than an hour, it's done.
"When can I eat?" I ask eagerly.
"Anytime you want," says Sedeqi.
In the car I rip open the pretzels and nuts and chomp down ferociously. The implants feel fantastic, which is to say, they don't feel anything — exactly what I've always hoped for in a tooth. The upper molars, on the other hand, prove a little more boisterous. It's not pain, exactly, but it occurs to me that teeth, like people, resent too abrupt a transition from indolence to labor.
Two weeks later my whole mouth has successfully made the switch.
I call up my twin to ask him how his final mandibular molar is hanging. We both know it's only a matter of time before he will face his own rendezvous with dentistry. For now, however, there's a new winner in the molar sweepstakes: John 1, Jim 4.
Pennsylvania freelancer Jim Thornton writes for Men's Health, Field & Stream, and Swimmer, among other magazines.