Saturday, October 23, 2010


Ten years ago today, on October 23, 2000, I flipped over the handlebars of my Razor scooter on the way to school and lost one of my front teeth. I was eleven years old, and in the sixth grade.

Those scooters were really popular around then, and I begged my grandparents for one. My grandfather, having heard that they were dangerous, told me he'd buy one for me as long as I promised to only ride on the sidewalk. That wasn't too smart of him; the scooters were dangerous because of their tiny wheels. It was much safer to ride them in the street, which was smoother than the sidewalk.

Except at this time of year, when there are leaves and branches everywhere. A block away from school, I hit a twig and went flying. I landed face-down on the cement, and it took me a few seconds to realize that my tooth was loose and my bottom lip was all bloody. I just sat there in a daze for a few seconds, and finally, a seventh grader named Martha came over and helped me up. She flagged down a car, and the woman driving gave us tissues from her glove box and offered us a ride to school.

We went to the office and the secretary called my mom. By that point, I was crying and shaking and generally reacting the way you'd think a typical eleven-year-old would, so it was determined that I wouldn't stick around for classes that day. My mom took me to see the dentist, who stitched up my lip and told me that the tooth would probably work its way back into place and that would be the end of it.

Not so.

A few months later, my lip no longer resembled an overinflated balloon, but my tooth was still loose, and turning funny colors. So I underwent a series of root canals.

Everyone hears that and cringes. Root canals are unpleasant, and I was especially young. But to be honest, I didn't mind it all that much. I have a high pain tolerance. And all the pitying attention was nice. And I got to miss a lot of school.

The "dontists" (as I called them: endodontist, periodontist, orthodontist) were unable to save my tooth. The bone inside my gum was deteriorating, and so in June of 2001, the tooth was extracted.

So there I was, a twelve-year-old girl without a front tooth. Sounds like a self-esteem disaster, doesn't it? It wasn't; I had (and still have) the personality of a nine-year-old boy. They fitted me with a temporary, removable tooth, called a "flipper." I wore it until I reached the age of seventeen. I wasn't able to have a permanent one placed until everyone was 100% certain that I was done growing. Had they placed it too early, it would have interfered with the growth of my jaw.

So I spent my awkward teenage years freaking out my sister's elementary school-aged friends by taking out my tooth. I usually incorporated the missing tooth into Halloween costumes; one year I was a generationally confused punk rock grandmother, complete with dentures.

Then, when I was sixteen, I began the process of getting a permanent tooth implanted. It was crazy. For about a year and a half, I was in an out of the dentist's and oral surgeon's offices. I had a bone graft done to replace what had deteriorated, and then once that healed, they attached metal to it, and attached the tooth itself to that. On top of that, I had all the typical dental stuff done: got my teeth cleaned every six months, had my wisdom teeth taken out. I lost track of what my appointments were for. I just showed up when they told me to, and let them do their thing.

So in March of 2007, when I showed up for some procedure or another, I was surprised to find everyone in the office looking particularly excited.

Turns out it was my last appointment EVER. They finished it off and sent me home with a brand new tooth. You'd really never be able to tell that it's an implant.

And I took "last appointment EVER" literally, by the way. I finally went in for a teeth cleaning this past summer, and got seriously reprimanded for putting it off for so long.

But like I said, I have the personality/sense of humor of a nine-year-old boy. And if you told a nine-year-old boy that he never had to see the dentist again, he'd be really pissed off if you decided to put him in the car and take him in for a cleaning.

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