Death of Tooth 31

December 17, 2008

A tooth that played a key role in chewing more than 49,000 meals and countless snacks died today in Portland. The veteran molar was 45 years old.

The death of Tooth 31 came after three weeks of intense medical treatment, including two root canals, antibiotics, and x-rays. “We did everything we could,” said a specialist called in to save the tooth. “Sometimes there’s no choice but to pull them.”

Tooth 31 began its career in 1963 in Maitland, Florida as one of four twelve-year molars. It never missed a day of work or complained about dangerous assignments, including crushing ice. Not even a crown and initial root canal in 1991 weakened its performance as lower-right-side anchor of the mouth it called home.

In an interview after the extraction, the mouth’s owner said, “I’ve lost a close friend and constant companion. There’s a gap in my life that can’t be filled.”

Dabbing blood on his lips, the owner said he asked too much of Tooth 31 over the years. “All that jaw-clenching stress of divorce and newsroom politics . . . I blame myself for this tragedy.” He also denounced reports that an implant is planned next spring. “I haven’t thought that far ahead. Can’t a person grieve first?”

Sources said the extraction was a grisly, violent conclusion to an exemplary career of quiet mastication. “What a stubborn bastard! Wouldn’t let go,” said a witness who spoke on the condition that her name not be used. “First time I’ve seen an oral surgeon use a one-arm head lock on a patient to get leverage.”

In desperation the oral surgeon split the molar to subdue it. When the end finally came, the two pieces of Tooth 31 were dropped onto a metal tray. Snow was falling outside.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete Wednesday night. In lieu of flowers, donations of more Vicodin may be sent to the mouth’s owner.