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Molar and tenon

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As I struggled to remain calm in the dentist’s chair yesterday (read: keep from whimpering like a little girl), once again I’m amazed at the similarities between dentistry and woodworking.

This isn’t the first time I’ve brought up the dentist, having discussed it back in 2008 and 2009, but my trip yesterday added yet another example. I had to have a root canal a while back, and yesterday was the day I got the new crown for that tooth. Save for the part about putting tools in your mouth, the process is remarkably like making a standard mortise-and-tenon joint

He had already reshaped my existing molar into a rough tenon a month ago, then took impressions so the crown could be made. Yesterday he did the finish work for installing it. To do so he did the same thing you and I do: with the crown prepared and ready to go (the mortise cut first), he tweaked the tenon that would fit into it.

Following the same steps we would he then tried a test fit that showed it was too tight, followed by a little grinding here and a touch there, then another test fit. The process continued till the fit was right, all of this just the way we do it. There was even sandpaper involved, I think. This was special dentist sandpaper, of course, not something from the Home Depot down the street.

With the fit right, he mixed up the glue and applied it to the repair site. The new tooth slipped right into place, he asked me to bite down to seat it properly, and then just like in our shops he wiped off the glue squeeze-out. The whole thing was like an old episode of New Yankee Workshop, except he didn’t toss a couple brads in there “…to hold it till the glue dries.” When everything was done, he polished it up like a real mortise-and-tenon joint, and I was on my way. (And, after I was gone, I assume he got out the broom and swept up his shop.)

When I’m done with a shop project, I can’t wait to begin the next one. Of course, that’s where any similarity between dentistry and woodworking comes to a screeching halt.

Till next time,



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