Are there Pantones for teeth?

In the past I have praised dentists for their largely unsung role in making our lives better.

Today I will do it again. A few months ago I lost a chunk of a tooth, and finally went in to get a crown fitted. I learned two interesting things.

One is that many crowns are now made of zirconia, a different form than that used for earrings sold on QVC, but based on the same properties of hardness. In a few weeks I will have zirconia in my mouth. I'll let you know how that works. Every time you go to the dentist, there is some new device, implant, material, or procedure. It never stops. That is the great thing about our civilization. No matter what it is, someone is working constantly to make it better, cheaper, or faster. A time traveler with a tooth problem would startle a dentist from even a decade ago.

The other interesting thing was that the dentist carefully matches tooth color. Everyone's teeth have slightly different shades. My dentist brought out a whole board of tooth color samples and carefully matched them against my teeth, finally picking one color for the bottom (darker) and another for the top (lighter). When I said that when he decided on his career he probably had never expected color matching to have to be part of his skillset, he said seriously that aesthetics is really important, and that a crown or implant that does not match the surrounding teeth is considered a failure. I don't know if the Pantone corporation, which essentially owns all color, also has a stake in tooth colors, but I wouldn't be surprised.

He explained each procedure as he performed it, drilled and excavated away, put on a temporary crown, and sent me on my way.

For much of human history the occasional person who managed to survive to my advanced age had no teeth. I not only have teeth, they are firm in my mouth, and those with problems are replaced with indistinguishable replicas. Give thanks to dentists, and the researchers and device makers who keep our dental technology moving forward. Sexy? No. Wonderful? Yes.