Dental Work


blog post
Reminder: My series on classroom stories continues with this, the 20th. I have fifteen more, but as one reminds me of another, that list should get longer. And please keep in mind, each incident happened but characters may be composites.


Dental work wasn’t in my skill set1I did serve as an instrument sterilizer on four dental missions to the Dominican Republic in the mid-2000s. A little general knowledge and the right tools for the time fell into place on two occasions.


The school nurse brought girl with a bleeding mouth to me. The girl’s mother was on the way to pick her up, but her orthodontist was about 50 miles away. A wire on her braces had popped loose and was poking her upper lip. The girl had tried to bend it with her fingers, but that didn’t work. The nurse tried to reset the wire with forceps, but the wire didn’t cooperate, and the girl was in pain.

With the nurse holding the wire away from the girl’s upper lip with the forceps, I dipped my personal miniature diagonal cutter in alcohol and snipped the wire. We learned later that the girl admitted to the orthodontist that she’d been trying to remove some food with a fingernail file and the wire popped out.


I was passing the gym during my prep period or lunch-don’t remember which for sure. Every PE student was on his knees at one end of the basketball floor. At first, I thought it was a drill or some kind of mass punishment when they started crawling side by side. But the gym teacher was on his knees too. One boy was sitting in the bleachers holding a towel on his mouth. I asked him what was going on.

He removed the towel exposing a bloody lip and missing upper central incisor. He didn’t have to tell me that was what the class was searching for. Someone found it and I took the tooth and the boy to the nurse’s office, but she was at another school. The secretary already had the boy’s mother on the phone and the PE teacher was speaking with her.

He told me that she was about 30 minutes away and was calling their dentist for advice. He went back to tend his class and I took her return call. In the time gap, there was advice from the secretary, the principal and at least one other in the office.

The mother told me the dentist said to rinse the tooth with distilled water if we had some and have the boy rinse his mouth with the same. Then insert the tooth from where it came. I did what the mother relayed then put a gauze pad on his lower teeth so he could hold it in place with his jaw until the got to the dentist.

He was back at school later in the day with a band cemented to the implanted tooth and the adjacent teeth. I learned that the dentist x-rayed my work and did nothing more than secure the tooth in place and prescribe antibiotics.

When I saw the boy years later, the tooth was still where it was intended to be.



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