Teeth are frightening. It has been said that they are a glimpse of the skull leering at us, half hidden. And they are certainly a source of pain. Let them go, and they become infested with aching rot. Keep after them and you are doomed to the pokings, proddings, and drillings of the dentist.
One thing the National Science Foundation wants to avoid at all costs is having to make an air evac run or abort a mission because someone develops a grizzly infection in a tooth. Thanks to the miracles of modern dentistry, these scenarios are almost entirely preventable. All it requires is a thorough dental exam before embarking for the ends of the Earth.
Since there is no hope of being allowed to set foot on the icebreaker without evidence of a recent dental exam and any subsequent necessary work, I girded myself for a visit to my dentist, Dr. Lindsey, last Tuesday. All went well. I have no gaping cavities, no broken, dead, or wisdom teeth, no gum disease, no worn out dentures. In an hour, I was on my way with a set of bite-wing x-rays in an envelope, along with a form filled out and signed by the dentist. He had only this caution:
“Now, you have no cracks. But if one of these old silver fillings should fail and a piece of a tooth break off, don’t panic. You’ll be a bit sensitive to hot and cold for four or five days, but after that, you’ll be fine. We can fix it when you get home.
He also said not to bite any icebergs.
Meanwhile, I have been buying books about Antarctica. My friend and fellow Clarion Foundation trustee, Kim Stanley Robinson, who spent time in Antarctica researching his Mars books and gathering material for Antarctica, and fully intends to return there someday, obliged me by sending a list of his favorite books on the subject. Sometime in the next couple of days, I will post a list of them. I’ve already discovered that Frank Worsley, the captain of Shackleton’s ship Endurance, was a really fine writer. I pray that I won’t have to write of similar adventures.