My Teeth and Me

Recently I had a small space at the gumline of a tooth filled.  My dentist called it a cavity.  I always have thought cavity = decay.  But really cavity = hole.  He’s a very intense dentist and very likable. I go for two check-ups a year and he put on a crown so that was a few more visits.  At most we’ve been in each others faces ten times..

During one of the crown work visits Dr. Dentico (and I am not making that up) had a conversation with his assistant.  They spoke about a new machine he had ordered.  It would allow him to make his own crowns.  I had never heard a dentist talk about his work before, and was tickled by his effervescent enthusiasm.   He couldn’t wait to get this new machine.  I left disappointed that I wouldn’t have one of his first home-made crowns, and glad that I had discovered a very dedicated dentist who enjoyed his work.

Most dentists are pretty adamant about Novacaine shots before they do work.   I prefer to wince, and from the first of my visits made the point known.  He doesn’t like the idea. This visit tho, when he was telling his assistant to get the needle ready, he readily agreed to my request.  I was more fearful of wincing and upsetting him than of the pain.  There was no pain.  There hardly ever is.  Why do dentists give Novocain, or perhaps it is a different drug now?   Please don’t tell me it is corporate greed.

I’ve had two sets of braces, the second just 10 – 15 years ago.  My poor husband had to kiss me with braces (ick) for two and a half years.  It was a hard decision to make.  My teeth were very jumbly and I was very self-conscious and wouldn’t give a toothy smile for the camera.  Still I pride myself on taking things as they come, and wouldn’t consider going through the discomfort and display of braces again just for cosmetic purposes.

One day I realized I did not know how to close my jaw.  Studying my teeth I saw that they did not line up, they were crushed forward.  I had known that for a long time, but now realized that my entire jaw had to twist in order to bite, and no bite was comfortable.  I had been complaining of shoulder, back, neck, and jaw pain for years.  My bite was the problem and now there was a solution.

I went to an orthodontist.  He insisted I got to a periodontist, a sadist with witches for technicians.  Periodontal surgery is terrible — don’t ever go voluntarily.  Then months of  being wired.  Going to the orthodontist’s office made me feel very young — a little out of place, but young.

After my first obligatory set at age 13, my orthodontist talked about retainers, but I didn’t get them. My mom said enough with the braces, but I could be making that up.

At the end of my adult “orthodontury” I received a set of retainers.  Ten years later, I still wear them, no longer every night since I have a new love life, but pretty regularly  My orthodontist thinks I’m nutsy. .  (I’ve had to go back to Massachusetts to have him fix the lower retainer twice.)

Dr. Dentico also thinks I am a bit odd to be wearing them.  What was so fascinating was that he asked me why I don’t wear them every night now.

I don’t know.

Do you miss them if you don’t wear them?

Yes, I wake up and toss and turn for a while, then realize I’m not wearing my retainers, put them in, and immediately fall asleep.

He was very interested in this, and thanked me for sharing.  I wonder if he had gone through a similar experience.  It was like he was doing research on the subject.

That evening the sunset was candy-striped pinks with white.  By the time I found my camera the pinks had faded away and I have no photo for this post. I could look for the before and after pictures of my orthodonture work but think I’ll let that pass.

*

Afterword/ 5/28/2013

I know it is a far stretch to compare Dr. Dentico to Dr. Stephen Zeitels, the founder and director of MassGeneral’s Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation, but I can compare my enthusiasm for my dentist to Julie Andrews’ for her voice specialist.  She has been attributed with saying that his “compulsive enthusiasm for his field . . . lends him a Peter Pan quality.”

Thank you John Colapinto!  Giving Voice:  A surgeon pioneers methods to help singers singer again, The New Yorker, March 4, 2013

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