canine tooth guidanceAbout a month ago we had a little reunion of Northwestern University Prosthodontics alumnus. Northwesten University alumnus form the largest group of American-trained prosthodontists in Singapore.

In our training, a big portion of our work was based on classical literature in Prosthodontics. Believe me in this, there is such a thing as ‘classical literature’ in our field, which encompasses scientific literature from almost 200 years ago. Sometimes, our students nowadays wonder out loud – “Why are we studying the ‘old’ stuff?” The answer is –“We do not need to reinvent the wheel…  As a matter of fact, mankind has failed to reinvent the wheel.”

Over one of our dinners, our former graduate program director, Dr. John Chai, asked (like in the old days during our seminars), “What is the significance of the canine?”

As we know, the canine is also commonly known as the ‘eye tooth’. A canine is an ‘eye tooth’ because an infected canine may cause facial infection that can spread all the way up to the eye and the patient can actually get killed by it! Why? Well, our eyes are seated a few centimeters from our brains. An infection in that area can seriously affect the brains, thus the grave consequences.

In the field of Prosthodontics, we are the builders as prosthodontists reconstruct bites and teeth. Physics principles are of prime concern to us. Canines have another significance. Biomechanically, canines are the cornerstones of our bite and the canines serve to protect the bite in functions.  Therefore, we have this term: Canine guidance in this canine guided occlusion.

When we were puzzling why Dr. Chai asked that question over the seafood, he then whipped out a few beautifully custom-made key chains, and there was a metallic canine attached to each of them. He said: “Here are your gifts from me.’ Each of his students received a canine keychain but I was the lucky one who did not get a keychain as he was short of one. He then casually said he would send me one.

As it turned out that, his word is gold, as usual. I received the canine keychain in the mail a few days ago. With the keychain was a note from Dr Chai – ‘It is a privilege to give you a canine.”

However, to me, it was my honor to receive his guidance.

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