Letters to the Editor

Don't Let Dentist Mess with Old No. 30

Sit back, folks, and let me tell you about old No. 30.

I’m sure not all of us go around naming our teeth or telling stories about them. Then again, perhaps you’ve been doing it for years.

Visits to the dentist are something I look forward to. In fact, I started to tell Dr. Murrell of Tallahassee and one of his hygienists, Debbie, about old No. 30 during my last visit, but I gave them only a short version for fear of carrying on too long.

I grew up poor, like some of you. My first visit to a dentist was at the age of 12. My dentist, Dr. John Cockayne, looked into my mouth and was probably stunned to see so much decay.

Right away, he pulled out old No. 30’s twin from the opposite side of my mouth. He could save No. 30, but it must have taken some doing. Then I just forgot about this precious tooth for the next six years or so.

During the Vietnam War I was doing search and rescue for the Coast Guard when old No.30 started acting up.

The dentist on the island was a young, Japanese man by the name of Ohara. (Did you think he might have been of Irish descent?) We liked each other instantly. I liked him because he was about my age, from Hawaii, full of life and Japanese. I was married to a young Japanese woman, also from Hawaii.

When he looked into my mouth and observed No. 30, he practically drooled. He stepped back with a big smile and rubbed his hands together in excitement. I thought to myself: “Sick.”

He then announced he was going to install his very first gold crown, onto my old No. 30, no less.

He was proud. I was happy for him and grateful to have my most prized tooth healthy and working well once again.

In the mid 1980s, No. 30 started to give me some trouble.

I went to see Dr. John Crowell in Hamden, Conn.

John at first was ready to yank her, and then had a sudden change of heart and set about to save her.

He took off that gold crown, which, in itself, was shocking. I thought gold crowns were for life. Under the crown, he found decay down to the root but said, “Ray, I’m going to do my best to save this tooth for you.”

He must have worked on that tooth for two hours. I don’t mind pain, and I didn’t on that day. However, I could have sworn he drilled down to the equator and back, and he saved her.

Now, today, almost 30 years later, every time I visit a dentist and he looks into my mouth I fear he’ll say: “Ray, I’m sorry, but old, No. 30 will have to go.”

I don’t know if I’ll survive without her; she’s practically my best friend. We’re family.

Six years later, my present, Aiken dentist, Dr. Stephen Baker, and his efficient crew, are now caretakers of my precious friend. Of course, each time I have my check-ups, I'm a bit jittery.

Ray Willis