Sorry about the creep x-ray. And about the even creepier tooth stories I’m about to tell. If you freak out about going to the dentist, this post is not for you.
I never really considered the relationship between teeth and stories until today. When my dentist took my annual mouth x-rays a couple of years ago, I asked him to email this image of my mouth. I no longer remember what possessed me, probably just curious if he would oblige, but today I came across the goofy grin. Two stories were immediately visible in the black and white x-ray.
Look at my two top front teeth. The x-ray suggests that I’m chewing bubblegum. Or preparing to shoot a spitball? The truth is that those two front top teeth were damaged long ago while riding a bicycle. My smile today comes to you courtesy of a long parade of capable dentists who repair my reconstructed front teeth every few years.
It was a summer day, and I was visiting a friend whose mother gave us permission to ride our bikes down to Rosemary Remington’s for ice cream.
My mother didn’t allow us to ride bikes on the road, so it was a particular thrill to peddle down the pavement. Freedom! There’s something about riding a bicycle on a peeve corrode as a child that is truly intoxicating. Add to that an ice cream cone and probably a chocolate bar. Cycling in the land of enchantment!
While popping a wheelie on the way back to my friends house I overpulled and smashed the handlebars into my teeth. I reached into my mouth and collected the fragments. I looked down into my wet hand, small pieces of broken tooth. I ran my finger over my two top front teeth. I had broken a perfect upside down V into my still new “adult teeth”. Only my mother’s heart broke into more pieces than my own. Oh, to relive that single moment!
Absent in this image are my wisdom teeth, all four. And while that gaping maw looks laid back enough about it now, I was anything but calm at the time.
For some reason, my wisdom teeth were not removed until I was part way through college. By the time our dentist decided I needed to have them removed, they were severely impacted. Apparently this is common enough, though less common is a roughly 20-year-old male who is scared to death of needles. I had known they were going to knock me out in order to extract the teeth, and I had been agonizing over the inevitable injection for days before arriving at the orthodontist’s office. Well, turns out the ortho had a solution for that too. I was strapped to the operating table and after wrenching and flinching each time he attempted to insert the IV, he placed a mask over my mouth and turned on the gas. Once I was mellowed out he slipped the needle into me without my knowledge or reaction. I remember him talking to me.
“So you go to Georgetown?”
“Um-hmm,” I mumbled through the mask.
“That’s where I studied orthodontia.”
“Really? I didn’t know there was a dental program,” I tried to say, feeling calm and far, far away. “When did you graduate?”
“We had to break the top teeth to get them out, but I have the bottom ones if you’d like to keep them”
What? What?!?! That’s my one experience with anesthesia. Sort of like a sloppy film edit. Same characters. Same setting. But a half hour of footage was extracted in the blink of an eye.
The rest of the story involves codeine and a slooow recovery, but it’s less interesting than the half hour of my life that was edited out with my wisdom teeth.
Tooth Stories and X-Ray Storytelling
Did you ever pretend that you had x-ray vision as a child? Or maybe as an adult? I remember advertisements for x-ray vision glasses that could be ordered from comic books or bubble gum wrappers. Never tested that one out.
But imagine if we could use x-ray storytelling to spy under people’s prettied up veneers! Maybe we can. I try all the time. A stranger in line at supermarket flips her hair while closing her eyes for a moment longer than a blink. And suddenly my x-ray storytelling is conjuring up a narrative. Probably not an accurate narrative, but an intriguing and startling narrative. Maybe that’s the same way those comic book x-ray vision glasses worked too…
If I turned my x-ray storytelling on you, what tooth stories would I discover?