What is the Most Precious Thing?

What is the most precious thing in the world?  To women, it must be gold or diamond.  To scientists, it must be time.  To dentists, it should be teeth.

Mrs. Lee came to our office a year ago, complaining of toothache on the right side. Exam shows that the lower right (our left-handed side) first molar has a big cavity (Fig.1 arrowhead, black shadow) underneath a filling (white image).  The tooth can be saved.  The patient did not say anything about our suggestion.  On the top of this molar tooth is a missing tooth (*), second premolar.  There is another filling on the lower second molar on the right (F).  At that time, the lower left first molar has a large, apparently good filling (Fig.2 F).

Mrs. Lee did not return for treatment for the lower right first molar.

Last week, she did return with pain from the left side.  Exam shows that the lower first molar has a deep cavity (Fig.4 arrowhead, below gum line) underneath the large filling (F), as compared to Fig.2.  This tooth is tough to save. 

In despair to seek an answer, we peek into Mrs. Lee's right side of the mouth (Fig.3).  The lower right first molar (dentist's most precious thing) is gone (*).  It appears to the dentist that teeth are not so important to the patient.  Extraction should meet Mrs. Lee's liking.

Surprising is that this time Mrs. Lee is against extraction openly and straight forward.  Why?  She says that she cannot afford to lose any more teeth.  She cannot chew well on the right side after extraction of the lower right first molar (Fig.1 * big tooth).  Now she has toothache on the left side (Fig.4).  Chewing on the left is almost impossible for her.  She must be the most miserable person in the world. 

Since extraction of the last tooth, Mrs. Lee must have had to use remaining teeth to chew and put a lot of pressure on them.  She chips the filling on the lower right second molar (Fig.3 arrowhead, compare to Fig.1 F).

Our teeth must have profound impacts on our life.  Anything is more precious than the teeth?

Xin Wei, DDS, PhD, MS 1st edition 03/26/2012, last revision 09/29/2012