Driving home from Canada last weekend, my wife Roberta and I found ourselves talking about … teeth.
Specifically, we were talking about “the tooth that bothers me.” More on that in a minute.
Another part of the converstion went like this: I remarked how that, generally speaking, I preferred the smile of someone who’s teeth weren’t perfect but rather just a bit crooked or otherwise off, for lack of a better word. Obviously, a person with teeth that are perfect or really close to it can have a super nice smile too, and as an example of that I mentioned my co-worker Karen Petersen.
Here, you can see for yourself. Here she is, with yours truly, at a SafeHaven Humane Society fundraiser a couple years ago (I am hanging onto my dog Jewel, Karen has a one of the shelter dogs):
Anyway, back to this tooth that “bothers” me …
When my adult teeth came in, the top ones were pretty much OK, but the bottom ones were crowded, resulting in the particular crookedness of one in the middle.
So at age 11, the orthodontist determined there really wasn’t enough room on either the top or the bottom and recommended the extraction of four molars and the installation of braces.
That diagnosis represented a low ebb in my life to that point. I would be one of two kids in my grade school who had braces, which would no doubt subject me to the kind of ridicule every school kid dreads. Beyond that, the braces of the 1970s were vastly more intrusive and less comfortable than what you see people wearing nowadays (I had an actual, over-the-tooth band on every single tooth; these bands were hammered into place with something that resembled a leatherworker’s mallet, I kid you not).
Picking up the pieces of my broken life, I soldiered through the extractions, the installation and then about a year and a half of wearing the devices of torture (at least I didn’t have to wear a headgear). And that day in the eighth grade when I got them off remains on the short list of the happiest days in my life.
What followed were a few years of wearing a removable retainer on top, and a cemented-in one on the bottom. I followed all the instructions and then was paroled, forever, from the world of orthodontia. Or so I thought.
Both my kids, as it turned out, needed braces. And when I met with their orthodontist, I noticed him sizing up my pearly whites as well.
“You’d be a perfect candidate for a recorrection,” he said, alluding to the unmistakeable fact that my bottom teeth had over the decades drifted back more or less to what they looked like before the whole braces ordeal had begun.
“No chance,” I said with a laugh.
A few years later, at one of my baseball games, my mom happened to notice my one super-crooked bottom tooth.
“It seems like it bothers you,” she said.
“It does bother him,” my kid Bob said, for the sole purpose of egging on his grandmother.
“You should do something about that,” she said. “I can tell it bothers you, like when you’re talking.”
So in the ensuing years my family has jokingly referred to that one specimen as “the tooth that bothers me.”
Unfortunately, at this point, I have to admit it does sort of bother me, encroaching increasingly on my tongue as it does. I asked my dentist once about just pulling it out, but she was afraid the extraction would cost me too much bone in my jaw, which sounded bad though I admit I don’t really understand how that works.
“It does seem to be getting worse,” my wife Roberta said of the tooth Sunday during our talk on smiles.
“Well,” I said, “I’m about due to go to the dentist. Maybe I’ll ask about it again. I suppose if she thought orthodontia were medically necessary, and insurance would pay for it, I’d consider it. But braces at age 46? Maybe they’d make me look younger, I guess; I’ve heard that they do.”
And just in case you were wondering what all the fuss is about, here’s a self-shot photo, taken in the bathroom mirror here at the DH (I could’ve had someone else take the shot, but I wanted the challenge).
Warning: This particular gaping-mouthed pic is not necessarily for the faint of heart: