Mike Buzzelli

Column Mike Buzzelli

Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and published author. He is a theater and arts critic for 'Burgh Vivant, Pittsburgh's online cultural talk magazine, and an active board member of the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, the Carnegie Arts Initiative and the Carnegie Screenwriters. His book, "Below Average Genius" is a collection of essays culled from his weekly humor column here in the Observer-Reporter.

Farewell, Number 30

February 8, 2013

“Number 30 has to be extracted.” It sounds like a line in a spy novel. Instead, it is the sentence uttered by the pleasant, young Asian man standing over my gaping mouth. I can’t really call him a dentist, yet. And that’s where this story begins.

I am currently between dental insurances. I opted to go to the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Dental Medicine for a pain in my mouth.

I knew I was in trouble when I walked into the lobby and saw the display of ancient dental equipment from the 1900s. It looked like a medieval torture chamber. There were a lot of sharp, black instruments. Yikes!

My soon-to-be-doctor was very intelligent and friendly. The one advantage of seeing a student dentist is that he hadn’t become arrogant yet.

He asked, as part of a barrage of questions, “Are you afraid of dentists?”

I said, “I don’t think I would come to a student dentist if I were afraid of dentists. I would want someone who had been practicing for years. Though, not someone so old that he had shaky hands.”

He properly diagnosed the problem. Number 30 was in trouble.

Background on Number 30: A few years ago, I broke my tooth eating unpopped popcorn kernels. My advice; Don’t chew on the popcorn at the bottom of your bucket at the movie theater. I was in the dark, and it took me a while to realize one kernel was not a kernel at all. It was part of my tooth.

I had a root canal and a crown; even with health insurance, I was out over a thousand dollars for the procedure. A year later, I lost the crown eating a salted caramel at a cousin’s wedding (a story for another time). I spent several hundred dollars replacing the crown. A few days after I had the crown replaced, I lost it again chewing gum. I never got it reattached.

Hence, my current predicament: “Number 30 has to be extracted.”

It was an expensive tooth, and I’m glad to be rid of it.

I can see letting a not-yet-dentist remove my tooth as a risky procedure, but the lack of dental insurance and my vow to not spend more money on this unruly tooth led me down this particular path.

There I was reclining, with my mouth agape as the student dentist explained to his teacher the problems of my mouth. I heard words like “flesh,” and “tissue,” and if my mouth wasn’t being held open, I probably would have gagged. It may be the Novocain, but I swear he told the teacher that he was going to install an elevator in my mouth. As scary as that sounded, I was worried about who could possibly ride in such a tiny elevator. I learned later that a dental elevator is a real thing, just no one rides one. By the way, if you ever want to faint for fun, go to the Wikipedia dental instruments page. Bring smelling salts.

I was laid up for two days. Next time I’m watching an action movie where the hero looses a tooth and continues to fight to save the world, I’m standing up and crying foul. Said hero should get some Vicodin and lie down. Leave the world-saving to a hero with all of his/her teeth.

I may even throw popcorn at the screen, because I won’t be chewing it anymore.



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