Thursday, September 8, 2011


     My teeth belong in the Smithsonian alongside the display for Pre-historic Cro-Magnon. It's my fault---I lived on a diet of Sugar Babies, Mars Bars and Little Debbie cakes for years until a dentist found decay in every tooth in my head. I had enough silver and gold in my mouth to open a pawn store, but eventually I learned to take good care of my teeth . Once I hit the pre-menopausal stage, things began to happen in my mouth. Bad things. Old fillings washed away to be replaced by root canals and crowns. Several months ago I heard the dreaded news no one with a $20,000 mouth wants to hear. I needed to see a periodontist! Impossible! Only old people with walkers go to periodontists! My teeth look great! What do you mean there's bone loss? Memory loss, yes, but bone loss? Could that possibly have something to do with too many years of drinking inferior white wines? I brush, I Water Pik, and for God's sake, I carry a huge roll of dental floss in my purse (at times it has also doubled as a shoe string and a trouser belt, but I won't get into that right now).
     For months I put off a visit to the periodontist, especially after hearing a detailed description of the gum surgery I was to endure. Gum flaps? Bone grafts? Sutures? No, double no and hell no. Where does that replacement bone part come from? You guessed it---cadavers. Or even a cow. The doctor also mentioned something about coral, but I was still trying to digest the word "cadaver." The office asked if I was ready to set the appointment for the procedure. It was definitely a "Don't call me I'll call you" situation. Yeah, I'll get right on that....
     More time went by and my bone loss increased ever so slowly. I kept praying that my meticulous dental regimen would cure the problem on its own, but no such luck. I contemplated using a pair of plyers and the liquid courage from a bottle of tequila, but then I thought of my older son who recently had four wisdom teeth pulled. Certainly if a 24 year old could survive oral surgery, then so could I. With the help of a few valium.
     On the day of the appointment, I looked longingly at a crunchy apple, a hard pretzel and a bag of chewy caramels. It would be weeks, maybe months, before I could indulge like that again. In the doctor's waiting room, my gaze automatically drifted toward the periodontal disease pamplets. I had to turn away or be sick.
     Once I was seated in the dental chair, the valium kicked in and I no longer cared if the tooth was pulled or if an entire cow was going to be jammed into my jaw bone. I closed my eyes and waited for the last suture to be threaded through my gum. The best part? Hearing the doctor advise my husband to pamper me all day and to let me sleep for hours on end. For once I was given permission to be a sloth and watch tacky TV shows from my bed. I was even allowed to hold the coveted remote control all day.
     Once home, my husband turned to me and asked, "So which is it? Cow or seventy-nine-year-old man?"
     "I'm not sure," I answered, "but if I begin mooing or digging through the night stand drawer for a tube of Polygrip, you'll have your answer..."

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