Friday, November 18, 2011

A Brief History of Tooth #9

One Fall evening when I was twenty years old, I was enjoying a late evening dinner at Hamburger Hamlet with some of my college friends. Sucking on a straw, I slurped Coke from a barrel-sized glass. Delicious. At some point, I released the straw from my clenched jaw. I tongued the back of one of my front teeth to knock (what I thought) was a little bit of food loose.

Ouch. Sharp!

It was not food. It was a splinter from the back of my front tooth.

How does that even happen? Sure, I can understand cavities in molars. I mean, there are pits and valleys back yonder, excellent nesting places for sugar and gunk that can weaken bone. But the centrals? They have no location where the necessary cocktail of bacteria and acid can find purchase.

Except in my teeth. Thanks again, Mom & Dad, for passing on teeth made of peanut brittle instead of bone.

Off to the dentist I went, where it was patched up and I received a friendly lecture about decreasing my cola/tea/coffee consumption. Right. Because college students generally don't mainline caffeine.

Cut to four years later. A distinct vertical line appeared, and grew darker. It was then that I learned that the presentability of your front teeth is directly proportional to your desire to show your face in public. Armed with my own dental insurance, courtesy of choosing gainful employment at a place that offered such a boon, I selected a new dentist who cleaned up the work of the previous dentist and replaced the filling. Actually, he pretty much spread the filling goo like butter over the back of my whole front tooth. Success!

Cut to twelve years after that. Again, I'm sitting at dinner, this time among my husband and three children, and I feel a hard crumb on my tongue. Except we were eating spaghetti, which does not at all have hard bits in it. Well, at least the way I prepare it. I don't know what you do in your kitchen.

I had a flashback to Hamburger Hamlet and knew that this would not be a good thing. Sure enough, close inspection revealed I had chipped my tooth. On spaghetti. Two days later I was in the dentist's chair, where the venerable Dr. Hickey was telling me that I would need crown for that tooth.

For those of you keeping track, this is now my third crown. And I have a gap where I will get an implant some day. At this rate I'll be in dentures by fifty.

Last week, I got the temporary crown. I requested to be jacked up with all the novocaine a body can bear, but it was still MIGHTY unpleasant to have someone up to his elbows in my face for an hour with a drill. I'm pretty sure ther's a scene from 'American Psycho' that unfolds that way.

From this experience I learned I may have an intolerance to latex being pressed up against my skin for extended periods of time. My face broke out with a constellation of pimples not seen since my adolescence. And the temporary crown? Well, it's temporary. Industry standard is to pick something that works for now, and not really to bother to have an absolute perfect match in color or sticky-outy-ness. The thing lines up so my bite isn't off, but is a micron or twenty thicker and pushes against the inside of my lip, making me feel like I constantly have peanut butter stuck to the front of my tooth. It's thicker in the back, too, so my speech is ganked up. The tip of my tongue is all, "Get out of the WAY!" when I am trying to use sibilant words, but it is fighting a losing battle with this squatter.

So, to re-cap, I am currently a lisping, pimpled, uno-horse-toothed woman. Fellas, fellas, don't bother lining up. I am married, after all.

All of this is to say I've been avoiding mirrors and pictures. I mean, I've never really been all moony over my reflection. But I'm thinking that this year's family portrait won't happen 'til after the holidays.

Yesterday, I went back to get the "you'll feel like you're suffocating but you really won't, I promise" impressions of my teeth done so that I can get a permanent crown. One that is custom-made for my face. Off-the-rack teeth don't work for me. Pants don't either, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this.

Anyway, to take the impression, the dentist had to remove the temporary crown. Between sessions of having softball sized clumps of wax jammed in my face, my tongue went on an exploratory mission to see what was left of my original tooth, my pal since I was six years old. Aw, it was just a little niblet of a thing. I was happy just having touched it, imagining a cheery little thing huddled under the crown. King Baby Tooth.

You can understand, then, my chagrin when Dr. Hickey returned with a disturbing rack of fake teeth, each one individually skewered and standing at attention. He grabbed one and positioned in my face, judging the color comparison. I was reminded of my mother-in-law in Sherwin-Williams, holding up swatches and going back for another one, convinced that they aren't quite right.

Dr. Hickey asked me if I wanted to pick up the hand mirror from among his implements and look at the tooth/color he selected. I wanted to say, "No." But, the aesthete in me decided I should probably take a gander.

Oh. my. God. I looked like a hillbilly vampire. My front tooth was GONE, and was replaced with this dumb little cone of a tooth which will serve as the tang for the crown.

I looked for about six seconds before I told my dentist that the choice was a good one. The temporary crown doesn't come in until mid-December, and I'm sure it will become fodder for a new post.


Because for the past couple of years I've been kicking around the idea of whitening my teeth. Here's the formula for making that decision:

Natural shade of butter + (coffee + red wine) * a lot = blecko color teeth.

When one of your front teeth is getting replaced, though, the time for making that decision is NOW. You can't really whiten a crown. So, the plan is to order the crown a couple of shades lighter, then whiten the real teeth until they match.

This plan can't go wrong, can it? Oh, wait, of COURSE it can. I'm pretty sure my teeth are going to end up looking like this: