The Sweetest Way to Extract a Tooth

I just got back from the dentist. (No cavities, you'll be glad to know, though a tad more flossing wouldn't hurt.) While I was there, my dentist, Dr. Anthony Abdalla of Pasadena, took a trip down memory lane.

When he was a kid, he told me, his dad had a fearsome set of electrician's pliers for removing loose baby teeth. Young Anthony worried about the size of those pliers, so he took matters into his own hands. He used candy.

"I'd chew up some Sugar Daddies, bite into them, then go yank! and the tooth would come out," he recalls. "Then I'd pick out the tooth and work on developing more cavities by eating the rest of the Sugar Daddies."

Abdalla does not recommend this activity to his young charges today. But he has used candies in his practice. Lots of dentists have, based on observations "in the field," if you like, that candies are extremely good at removing crowns.

I can vouch for the fact that Milk Duds are excellent in this capacity: Last Halloween, I lost two crowns in quick succession after raiding my daughter's candy stash. ("That will teach you," she said.)

Abdalla, meanwhile, swears by Gummi Bears and Jujubes. Get a patient to bite down on them, harden up the candy with some cold water, get 'em to quickly open their mouth, and hey, presto! Out comes that crown with decay under it, or bad fit, or some other problem that needs attention.

These days, Abdalla and other dentists use something called a "Richwil Crown and Bridge Remover" that was invented by two brothers--a dentist and an engineer from Southern California--and looks suspiciously like a Gummi Bear itself, only harder, and not bear-shaped, and not fruity-tasting either (more like cloves). Come to think of it, not much like a Gummi Bear at all.

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