Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Of Anniversaries and Teeth


This is an anniversary of sorts. It has been three years since I've been using this blog tool thingy as a mental dumping ground.
Sometimes the dumping comes rapidly and sometimes there are breaks, but as people do with any good dump, I always come back.

The pressure to write builds up and finally explodes out onto the keyboard and into cyberspace. I have found it interesting (appalling, actually) to note that people all over the world have read entries in this abomination. Often it's the historical or genealogical topics that draw people, other times it's just the blatherings. Clearly, people need more work to keep them busy.

I try to imagine someone who grew up in a vastly different culture than my own (from, say, California) trying to make sense of these scrawlings. I can't make any sense of them, why should they?

I write when something strikes me as it did recently when I went to the dentist.

The lady (I presume she was a lady) cleaning my teeth announced to me that my mouth (teeth included) was 'clean and healthy'. Without knowing my history, she had no idea how hysterically funny that was.

My
mouth was clean and healthy??
Pbffffffft! I smiled and thanked her while my tiny but hyperactive brain tried to reason how I had gotten myself into such a situation.

Clean and healthy??? Neither of
those circumstances prevailed the first time I ever went to a dentist. I was seventeen at the time and the only thing that forced me into the dentist's tender mercies was that one of my molars had rotted so badly that practically the whole top had disappeared.

You'd think I could
remember his name, but I can't. I recall his office was in Miami (obviously) on NW 7th Avenue somewhere in the vicinity of 135th Street on the east side of the street. I remember that and the fact that he had the hairiest hands of any person (man, woman or child) that I had ever seen even to this day.

This was not the era of gloves, I don't remember any gloves. I remember hair brushing against my mouth and cheek, but no gloves. I'm pretty scarred by the whole experience, I'll tell you! Nowadays, people sue for less.

But Dr. _________ had a saving grace. After he dug out what remained of the root of that once-upon-a-time-tooth, he demanded that I keep coming back until he got my teeth brought into at least the nineteenth century. Fortunately for him (and me) I was working full time at Royal Castle and bringing home the princely sum of $32 a week. Wow!!!

So every week for however many months it took, I journeyed to 7th Avenue to have hairy hands jammed into my mouth. He also taught me about proper brushing and flossing technique. And I'm sorry to admit I was lax about flossing for another five years or so. But now that it's part of my routine, I have to floss every day or nothing feels right.

You may be
asking yourself why I was seventeen before seeing a dentist for the first time. The answer involves frequent use of the word 'no'.

No money, no insurance, no family history of seeing doctors or dentists and in the case of my mother and father - no teeth.

One of the earliest memories of my father is having him disconnect his top 'plate' and then sticking it halfway out of his mouth. Charming. Have I mentioned the scarring? But that's what people did in the days when there were only three channels on television.

So my 7th Avenue doc saved the rest of my teeth. The only other extractions I ever had were the two wisdom teeth I had pulled. Yes, I only had two! Not everyone is blessed with four useless, extra, unnecessary, often painful teeth that come in after all the rest of your teeth have properly set. Actually, a large percentage of people don't develop any wisdom teeth. Consequently... no wisdom.

And all my original silver fillings are long gone, replaced by composite materials that are probably killing me in different, bizarre ways than jamming molten metal into my head.

It has occurred to me more than once that with no flossing, poor brushing technique and a mouth full of less than healthy (OK, rotten) teeth that my breath must have been staggering!

I didn't realize it at the time, but I could have been a super hero! I could have easily dispatched crooks and villains with a single, quick puff of breath. As Captain Plaque, I could have quickly ended the war in Vietnam and gotten Richard Nixon out the White House (relatively) painlessly.

The generation after mine, my kids, have barely had a cavity. They probably wouldn't even get misty-eyed over being told their mouth is clean and healthy. What else? That's just normal.

And with my usual impeccable timing, less than two years after all that dental work I joined the Navy. While in boot camp they went over my teeth again with a fine tooth comb (get it?) and I could have had all that work done for free. But like I said... What else? That's just normal.