Dental Updates and Movies

Tooth 18 Extracted

Family, friends, loved ones, and casual acquaintances have been asking about my tooth extraction on Tuesday.

My left rear bottom molar—tooth 18—is extracted. My father Isadore’s birthday was yesterday—from whom I inherited many of my stubborn genes [not to mention the stubborn genes on my mother’s side]—and Isadore (who would have been 113 born in Odessa while it was still Russia but is now the Ukraine) is almost certainly responsible for the fact that my molar root refused to let go in my kindly dentist’s chair a week ago Tuesday.


This figure is correct in being lower, but my side was the left and not the right. So imagine this illustration being on the left; it was the last molar that was removed—called by everyone involved as tooth number 18, but when I looked up dental notation…Trust me; ask a dentist about which dental notation system they use here in Pennsylvania and why (if you care).

The Big Sleep

Clearly, the thing to do after you wait for the pain to go away (with pills that make your tummy hurt) is  watch movies.

Then after the Novocaine wears off and I am good for nothing because of the penicillin, it does not matter what I watch as long as there is something distracting on Netflix, Amazon, or the DVD collection from the library around the corner.


There are times, during dental adventures, when it does not matter how many times I watch the same movie. Take The Big Sleep, for example, based on the wonderfully romantic novel by Raymond Chandler, which I have read three times, turned into a brilliant film by Howard Hawks, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. “What wrong with you?” Bogart asks Bacall in a memorable conclusion which is in no way a spoiler, “Nothing you can’t fix.” As the credits roll the screen shows two partially smoked cigarettes neatly paired next to each other in an otherwise empty ashtray.

What’s next? 

Well in dentistry, quite a lot.

The big question is can I save my teeth? I have good teeth. Unlike my parents, who entered their respective nursing homes with their teeth in a glass, if things go well false teeth are not inevitable. Whether things will go well is an open question.

First, there is the radiation treatment. Yes, I am grateful to be alive and not die at age 28 as would have been my fate without radiation treatment to cure me of Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer once immediately and invariably fatal.

One consequence of the radiation treatment is that it burned my spine and turned me into a paraplegic unable to walk, run, or even stand without holding onto something. I would prefer being able to walk but c’est la vie as Don Marquis’ cockroach Archie would have put it, “C’es la vie.”


Another consequence of radiation treatment is that it dried up my salivary glands and that not only prevents me from competing in spitting contests, it means that for decades saliva, which is good for my teeth, was not plentiful and dry-mouth Solkoff’s teeth rotted as a consequence.

Are my teeth salvageable? Probably. If I hurry. If I find the money to pay for them. If I hurry.

[Consider this your place for updates to Joel’s teeth. Stop by often and I will give you a tooth by tooth breakdown.]


As for movies,

I recommend, Jackie Brown.


Pam Grier plays Jackie Brown whose skill at driving Robert De Niro and Samuel Jackson totally and completely crazy caused one magazine to list the film as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time and rightly so.

More on this film, others, and my observation about how difficult it is to become an actor and similar cinematic musings as my dental adventure continues.


Also, I will not neglect the politics of dentistry: the President’s unwillingness to include dental care in the Affordable Care Act, the absence of dental care in Medicare, the pathetic attempt to provide it in Medicaid, and the absence of sufficient philanthropic dental care.

Does the President really not have a government provided dental plan? Do the 535 members of the House and Senate really have to dip into their own pockets to get their teeth cleaned?

[Please, readers, provide me with statistics on the cost to our society of neglected teeth—the cost to the gross national product of lost productivity due to unnecessary dental pain. I want charts. I want statistics.]

This site is about to launch a Dental Crusade.