Golden Lucy's Spiral Journal

Going on 87...Savoring and Surviving the Senior Years

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Smilin' Though

We finally got a look at Ben and Teresa’s professional wedding pictures. They were all wonderful! I think I look pretty foxy in this photo. I couldn’t stop smiling---it was such a happy day. Too bad I forgot to wear my teeth.
Yes I did. I was halfway down the aisle before I realized my lower partial plate was parked on my bathroom vanity and not in my mouth. Naturally I was horrified and resolved not to open my mouth during the festivities. However, as most of the photos attest, I never stopped smiling and undoubtedly also never stopped talking. Fortunately neither the priest nor the guests snickered and/or whispered “neener-neener-neeeeener! as I passed. But I was properly humbled---and that’s not an easy thing to do.

The good thing is that I can take comfort in the knowledge I’m not alone. Maria, our glorious Silver Fox recently related ( the hilarious story of Bob’s missing partial plate. But I definitely came out ahead. Bob was the hapless victim of perfidious pet chicanery. I was the inept instigator of my own misery. (I also didn’t get dog spit all over my false teeth, which I view as a real plus.)

The new AARP bulletin featured an article on the growing dental needs of seniors. This made me think about all the problems my teeth have given me over the years, and how much dental care has changed in the last 80 years.

As a young child I never remember going to the dentist. Nobody I knew went unless they wanted a tooth yanked out of their head---a buck per tooth was the going rate as I remember. I had my first permanent tooth pulled when I was 13. I recall a tall glass cabinet with many little drawers, a porcelain bowl for spitting and a white enamel dental chair with a foot pedal and black leatherette head rest.

The dental office was in the dentist’s house and his wife was his assistant. She always referred to him as “Doctor.” You know, as in “Doctor will see you now.” As a child a wondered if “Doctor” was actually his given name, but in any case his wife was always reverential and deferential when she talked about him. (Although I later heard she ran off with an Episcopal minister from Scotland. I wondered if he had a Christian name.)

“Doctor” was merry fellow with a wooden leg. (I always hoped to get a gander at it but never did.) On rare occasions he would decide the tooth could be saved---if you had the extra fifty cents. He didn’t believe in anesthesia and both filled and pulled teeth without it. “Let’s get rid of these bad brownies!” he’d chirp as he proceeded with his excruciating poking, prodding and pulling. Ah yes, those were the days.

Even after I could afford my own dental care I seemed to have bad karma when it came to choosing a decent dentist. For example: There was the dentist whose aged dentist-father appeared standing over his son’s shoulder whispering in a vicious sotto voce, “Not like that, stupid!!” (I’m not making this up.) Unfortunately, even though I resolved not to return to that office the damage was done.

The irony is that having the benefit of dentistry today I’d no doubt have nearly all my teeth. My tooth enamel is very strong, my teeth are aligned and straight. There’s little doubt most of the dentists that treated me in the past expected I’d eventually have false teeth---didn’t everyone? Pulling teeth was more cost effective for them so why not?

Today I bitterly regret this kind of expediency. My last visit to our current dentist was an exercise in frustration. Dr. Letha Robison is a genius, an artist and a wonderful human being. (Run, don’t walk to this dentist.) She has done her best for me but the truth is I’m past dental redemption. The thousands of dollars required to save my remaining teeth, secure implants and “fill in the blanks” isn’t for me, a good investment. I’ll live with the dental anomalies I’ve grown accustomed to. But don’t worry. I’ll keep smiling anyway.