Root of the dental problem

Ice cream broke my tooth?

Sounds a little like “man bites dog,” but it happens.

The other night, after a small dinner, I sat down to watch the Phillies, which itself can be painful, as you know.

The ice cream was basically a Dixie cup, but from Breyer’s, I think. It was creamy and smooth, but had chocolate chips in it. 

I bit into one of them, heard a slight noise and thought I had a cashew nut in my mouth.

It was not a cashew. 

It was a tooth from the lower left side of my mouth.

I carefully put it aside and waited for the searing pain.

No pain. That’s good.

Tooth in my hand, that’s bad.

Next morning I called my dentist, Steve Gilbert, with offices at 1500 Market Street (some call it the Clothespin Building because Claes Oldenburg’s striking statue is out front). Remember the address.

I mention Dr. Gilbert because he is one of the good ones, maybe the great ones. You have an emergency, you come in. He finds time for you. 

One time I had a dental emergency on a Friday night before an unchangeable Monday morning flight to L.A. Dr. Gilbert opened up his office on Saturday morning so I could open my mouth and he could take care of me. Like I said, one of the good ones.

So when I called his office in the morning, I was told to come in at 11 a.m. One of the benefits of being “retired” is you don’t need a boss’ permission to take off some time. To be honest, I never had that problem with my bosses at the Daily News and later the Inquirer.

I got settled in Dr. Gilbert’s chair and I could tell by the expression on his face this was bad — a tooth too broken for him to heal. “You need root canal,” he said. 

It was not the first time I needed emergency surgery — this is a result of me avoiding dentists when I was younger, warn your kids — and not the first time he called an oral surgeon to get me an appointment right now.

This time around the lucky endodontist was Dr. Josh Wolgin, located just a few blocks away. Two hours later I was in his chair, fitted out with the sunglasses all the dentists seem to be handing out now, and a green rubber tent over my mouth. It was quite colorful.

Dr. Wolgin gets to work

Before that we chatted, as the Novocain took hold.

What are the odds that each of us had seen “Marathon Man” a couple of nights before? That’s the movie starring Dustin Hoffman as a graduate student who gets tortured by a Nazi war criminal played by Laurence Olivier who uses dental instruments.

“Is it safe?,” Wolgin asked, quoting a line from the movie. 

We both laughed, him more hearty than I.

When I was a kid, in school they used to try to encourage us to brush your teeth by scaring the hell out of us by saying if we didn’t, root canal surgery would result. It seemed terrifying, and at the time, it was. 

That’s one of the reasons I avoided dentists — I was afraid I’d wind up a candidate for root canal.

The good news: It’s pretty much painless today. It sounds worse than it is. 

Getting the needle with the painkiller was the worst part of the procedure that took less than an hour. 

After it was over, we chatted again and I told him his last name was familiar to me. Are you related to Jack Wolgin, I asked?

“That’s my grandfather,” he said. 

The grandfather was quite a developer more than 40 years ago and he built the towers at 1500 Market Street, which is where Dr. Gilbert’s office is located. 

That’s why I asked you to remember the address, and that closes the circle.

7 thoughts on “Root of the dental problem”

  1. And now you’re going to tell us, Stu, that chocolate chips are the root of all (dental) evil, eh? Nice guy! Next time, stick to straight chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla. But otherwise a nice article about unexpected coincidences.

  2. Shel Siverstein, the cartoonist-humorist wrote this (or something like this) for kids: “Hey kids, if you lose a tooth put it under your pillow and the tooth fairy will leave you a dollar! Wanna make $32.00?”

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