A few weeks ago, I had a dentist appointment.
I put a comment in the comments section that let you know the visit was pain-free and it was, mostly. My new dentist zinged me with the spinny thing a couple times, but just when I was about to cry and rip off my paper napkin he switched to the old-fashioned scraper tool and I was okay. (The scraper doesn’t bother me for some reason.) The good news was that I didn’t have any cavities, so yay me for brushing my teeth even when I’m so tired I can’t see straight. The bad news is that I need a crown, but this was not news. I have a tooth on my lower right that is 79% filling at this point and I was actually surprised that my new dentist — who has extremely hairy arms but an excellent sense of humor — let me out the door without scheduling the appointment, but he didn’t. He said I would be okay for awhile, as long as I stop eating ice.*
The reason I’m doing an official follow-up to the dentist post is because something major happened.
I asked about braces.
Oh, I had them when I was a kid. Actually, I was a tween, but advertising executives hadn’t come up with that word for 13-year-olds back in the mid-’90s, so I think of myself as a kid back then — a kid with real messed up teeth. Man, were they crooked. Jacked-up toofs run in my family. The Fons clan has deep palates and our teeth are relatively large and excited to show up to the mouth party, so there’s a lot of crowding. Besides, you know, my family members — both on the Fons and Graham side — are just so wise, most of us have had to have all four respective wisdom teeth removed. If we didn’t, you see, we would be too wise. We would like, rule the galaxy because of our wisdom We would also have even crooked-er teeth.
So yes, I had braces as a youth and as a result, my teeth became super straight. But over the next decade or so, something happened: My lower teeth started to get all crooked again. This wasn’t something I noticed while it was happening, obviously; teeth move slowly. But a couple years ago I realized my lower incisor was starting to cock a little bit. A year after that, I saw how it had moved the tooth next to it — and the tooth next to that. Needless to day, I was steamed: Not only did I have braces in junior high, I had rubber bands, too.
From that day on, I began to notice my (crooked) teeth when I viewed episodes of Quilty or Love of Quilting. I began to be self-conscious about the way my teeth looked on camera and, more immediately pressing, how they looked in the bathroom mirror when I was flossing. I know plenty of folks vainer than I, but I’m not ashamed to say that I care about my appearance and try to keep myself looking and feeling my best. Besides, I do have a job that is public in many ways. How my teeth look — and how I feel about how my teeth look — is not an entirely trivial thing.
When I asked my dentist about all this, he said, with a reassuring nonchalance, “You should talk to an orthodontist. Sure. I see that, on the bottom. I’ll give you a referral to the two best guys. Get a quote, see what they say. It wouldn’t take too much. You’d be much happier.”
And a few days ago, I had one of the appointments. It’s so much money. But it’s my face. My teeth. You know? I give to charities. I save for retirement. I pay my taxes and I try to be generous. I’m in debt for school, but I’m paying it back as I go along. I can’t really “afford” to straighten my smile but I could figure it out. And it’s really been bugging me, how my teeth have shifted and gotten all weird. The thought that keeps coming to me is hard to admit, but I can tell you anything, so here goes:
I’ll be 40 in three years. How cool would it be to have the best smile of my life when I hit 40?
What if, you know? Just what if? They would be on the inside, by the way, if I’m willing to pay extra.
I think I’d have to try and make that work.
*[EDITOR’S NOTE: I am literally eating ice right now. It’s soft ice and I’m chewing carefully. Note to self to take iron supplement every day, not just when I remember.]