Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Seize the Day, Seize the Tooth

Carpe diem, carpe diem
Sing cuckoo sing
Death is a comin' in,
Death is a comin' in
The Fugs, Carpe Diem

WITCH: Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog ...
from Macbeth, (the three witches)

When I first came to America, over sixteen years ago, I thought - at least I can get my teeth fixed. America - land of the perfect pearly white and regular teeth. "Smile, you're in America!"

I've never had beautiful teeth. Growing up in Australia and having a "state school" education, I was subjected to visits from the "school dentist".

I've long since repressed the details, but I can say, that by the age of twelve I'd had no less that 34 "fillings". Amalgam. And I didn't even eat candy or sugary substances. AND I brushed my teeth regularly.

And now the rooster has come home to do whatever roosters do.

Ever since turning thirty I've had a fear of dentists, as it was about then that I realized the extent of the damage that had been inflicted on my teeth and my jaw-line. And I THINK it was about that time that I saw "The Apartment" - that scary Polanski film where some psyched-out guy lies in bed alone, pulls out a tooth and pushes it into the dry-wall.

Teeth problems equal meltdown in the Juliff Manhattan household.

I have felt I'd sooner die than loose a front tooth.

And now the rubber has hit the road; the tooth has hit the gum ...

As Whitlam said in 1972 and as Obama said in 2009:

"It's Time."

Because yesterday, while watching TV, a chunk of one of my front teeth fell off. The very tooth whose decline my periodontist has predicted since 2005. It is now an EX tooth. Dead. Demised. Finished. Like the parrot in the Monty Python pet-shop sketch.

And as it is a front tooth, I am beside myself with worry. I remember my previous visits to the dentist and the periodontist. They both warned me: we cannot save those front teeth - yes, I remember ... but what is the alternative? I assume EXTRACTION! And though I assume there'll be some solution (implants, a plate, a bridge), of course it cannot be achieved in the same day. Which means ... being front-toothless!

I REFUSE to venture out in public like a crone - like one of Macbeth's witches.

Was it Shakespeare who wrote of old age as being, "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything"? Notice it was the "sans teeth" that came first!

The saga of the front tooth - stay tuned.

Meanwhile we have to put up with Sarah Palin. I'd more or less decided not to even write about her. The more her name is mentioned the more important she becomes. But her latest excursion into interpreting the bible has taken the cake.

I was told that now she thinks that Palm Sunday is commemorating Jesus writing notes on his palm. Surly she jests.

But jest or not, I wish her 101 root canals. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kate, I fully understand your fear of dentists. Dentists rank very high on my fear list.

As a child, I was a 'charity' patient. We had no school dentist at the eks-clue-sive private boarding schools in which I was incarcerated. No, Mother and I were members of the Legacy Club of Australia who cared for the widows and children of WW1 and WW2 veterans. On Saturday mornings I was paroled from the clutches of the nuns or priests to see the Legacy Club's dentist and sit in his crowded waiting room listening to the noises from the other kids subjected to the modern dentistry of the 1940s.

Modern dentistry of that era was sans anesthetic for fillings and most extractions. To be a dentist in those times required a strong wrist and a piercing look to silence any protests from cowering patients. If you were a paying customer, the treatment was a bit more humane as they used novocaine injected with a large bore needle which numbed half your face.

I learned to 'ride over' and ignore the pain of large cavities as I knew that it would take several weeks for Mother to coordinate time off, a pass and the dental appointment. The nuns would give us cloves from the Medicine Press to insert in the disgusting holes which peppered our newly emerged molars. Holes which several years later, were filled with amalgam.

Late one evening as a member of an audience of pajama clad and suitably robed inmates, I watched a young nun attempt to extract a tooth from a tearful but not yet screaming fellow boarder. He had reached the point of being unable to ignore the pain of a tooth which had rotted to the gum line and elected to let Sister try to fix it. Poor nun, she did her best and hopefully the kid did not contract blood poisoning. I do not remember how the story ended as we drifted off to bed glad that we were not undergoing the same operation.

I wonder if Leo Schofield remembers that incident? (We were classmates at St John the Baptist Preparatory School for Boys.)

My fears of dentists still persist, but in the Land of Smiles, at least they use anesthetic.

Good luck, Katie girl.

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