I've had teeth pulled before; I'm already missing eight of them. But this is my fucking front tooth. (Fig.1, tooth #9.) I'm going to look like a six year old or a meth addict. And, yes, they will make me a (horribly named) "flipper," which is like a denture for a single tooth. And it will match my much-yellowed existing teeth. And eventually they're going to drill a new tooth directly into the bone. But I will be toothless for at least four months, maybe more. The entire process is expected to take about nine months.
|fig 1: YOUR TEETH|
(I actually think the dead-guy bone implant is pretty awesome. I'm more bothered by the literature than the actual procedure. Or, rather, I'm bothered by the procedure because it involves knives, and me, and being conscious, but not because of the dead guy. Just because it doesn't hurt when being cut, doesn't mean it doesn't feel awful. And then there's the later, which does hurt. Dammit.)
I think I have to stop biting my nails.
My periodontist is Dr. M. She is young and pretty, with cold, slender hands, and sleek brown hair. My endodontist tells me in the hallway that they are dating. I think he was trying to say something about how he wants to save teeth. He really wants to save teeth. But my tooth can't be saved. Also, he's dating Dr. M. Apparently, she is not good for his ability to make coherent transitions, because I have no idea what those two things have in common.
Dr. M was actually the second of three periodontists I met yesterday. After Dr. M was the head of the periodontics department. Then I met the director of the prosthodontics department. (Are department names considered proper names? Someone help me out here.) And then there was a second grad student who came to take some extra pictures before I left, because they'd be great for teaching. I have an appointment next week with another prosthodontist, but I haven't met him yet. And I'm pretty sure that department heads, capitalized or not, usually don't come to look at everyone's teeth. I asked my endodontist if my tooth was unusual in some way, but he looked at me earnestly and said that no, this was perfectly normal. I asked Dr. M, and she gave me the same answer. I think that they think I want to hear that I'm normal.
I don't want to be normal. If I'm going to go through a nine-month, $4000, treatment plan, I might as well have a freakish reason for it. If I'm going to get 3rd degree burns I'd much rather them be from a flamethrower than a campfire. Instead I'm getting a nine-month, $4000 treatment plan because I knocked my front teeth when I was 12 or 13 which caused a slight horizontal fracture in my left front tooth. For 19 years the fracture has been extending and expanding in an un-savable-fashion. My tooth was doomed almost from the start, I just didn't know it.
|fig 2: 14 years old|
I'm sure there's some sort of metaphor to be made here, about things we unknowingly set in motion years ago, or how we never really escape our childhoods. Maybe something that plays into the whole teeth-falling-out-insecurity-dream that I've heard about but never actually experienced. I don't know. I am relieved to think that this isn't my fault, not in a way that matters. I may have tripped and fell. I may have accidentally walked into someone's elbow. It wasn't even really me who was so clumsy or accident-prone, it was some other, earlier me. Someone I don't have to take responsibility for.
Because there's something embarrassing about sitting at the dentist as he points out what is wrong with my body, see, here is where the bone is losing density, and here is the crack that is causing it. All medicine is kind of embarrassing. Andy says I shouldn't replace the tooth; I could learn to whistle. Instead, I am getting teeth-whitening strips in a last-ditch effort to give my mouth some respectability.