Speed Demon

How fast can you replace a set of pearlies? Fast as you can say D.D.S.

15 minutes left

Using forceps, Ross finally frees the mounts and then proceeds to screw the implants in.

14 minutes left

At last, Dr. Steven Samson — Chauser's white-bearded, bespectacled general dentist and Ross's collaborator — enters. Samson moves slowly, smiles genially, and says a few words to Chauser, his long-time patient. A nice bedside manner, it seems, but is this guy ready for speed dentistry? I inform him of the clock. He's not even in scrubs.

9 minutes left

"Steven, Steven," Ross says loudly as he holds the teeth in his right hand. But Samson is in another room. When he enters, he's still not suited up. As Samson stands there, without a mask or gloves, seemingly unworried, I think back to presurgery. "I know I can do it," Ross had said. "But it also depends on Steven...."

3 minutes left

The team is given a three-minute warning. Ross struggles to fit the premade teeth on the implants. He's moving back and forth — placing the teeth in Chauser's mouth, checking the fit, pulling the teeth out, shaving them, fitting them again.

0 minutes left

Samson is suited up, finally. But as the two dentists examine the "thinness" of the teeth, my watch alarm goes off, noting the hour is up. I fear they don't hear this amid the cacophony of dental noise. After I alert Ross, he shrugs. "I don't care. It doesn't matter. This is not about speed."

But then I remind him. Bonus time. At least 12 or 13 minutes.

5 minutes over

Seemingly aware of the clock, Chauser, still in the chair, tries to cheer his surgeon. "Even God can't do it this fast," he mumbles. A laugh ripples through the room. Moments later Ross continues to tweak the premade teeth, and frets as he moves them in Chauser's mouth, adjusting the bite. They aren't fitting easily. "The lab could have done a couple of things that would have made life easier," he says, wincing.

14 minutes over

"See," Ross beams, pointing to Chauser. "He has teeth." Ross stands up, signaling that the surgery is over. Chauser, formerly toothless, climbs out of the chair and shows off a $25,000 smile.


Like the 2000 presidential election, this surgery ended in controversy.

Postsurgery analysts credited a total of 18 stoppage minutes to Team Ross. So, technically, the 18 stoppage minutes, subtracted from the 74 minutes of surgery time, result in 56 minutes. A triumph for Ross.

Suspicions lingered. Following the allegedly completed surgery, Chauser, I was informed, would go to Samson's office, a short walk, for some final review. What? What was this additional phase? And, how long did it take? Doesn't it count in the final calculation?

But Chauser walked out of the office, lucid, pleased, and without a speck of blood. He'll be back next month for a new set of upper teeth. Another $25,000. "I didn't want 30 years of worrying about loose teeth and root canals," he said.

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