The History of my Tooth
When I woke up early on Thursday morning (too early, it was practically dark), I suddenly realized that it was the first day of autumn, my current favorite season (no pun intended). So I turned to the other side and pretended I would sleep late for a change, just as if there was nothing at stake on my long to-do list.
My agenda these days has been so overwhelming that I feel exhausted even before I wake up, I must admit. And this is due not only to an excess of projects moving on simultaneously, but also to the elevated number of new skills I need to acquire in order to cope with these projects’ demands. Not to mention my brain itself is also achieving, step by step, its “autumn years.”
Yesterday, for example, I had to reach a rapid understanding of the previously unknown concept of “roof pitch index,” which I haven’t learned in the School of Architecture back in Brazil. My building style used to deal with flat roofs only, no pitch at all, a serious issue I needed to overcome in order to become a “South-Carolinian” at heart, now building a legitimate “Southern Craftsman Home.” At last!
Okay. Let us pretend there’s no elephant in the room. Meaning, the final release of my novel No Degrees of Separation, after working on it for 12 years… Which will happen exactly on the 15th of November, the 12th anniversary of the day I started writing it, online with my husband Alan. Maybe I’ll gather enough courage to write about it in a future chronicle, who knows.
Nevertheless, no matter these remarkable achievements in my bumpy American immigrant trajectory — book and house included — the important insight of the week actually revolves around a missing tooth, and the mandatory changes we all go through.
Quite frankly, the disappearance of this tooth, molar #30, did not come as a surprise at all. I was actually born without it, along with #19, its twin on the left side: a perfect symmetry of absence, although I did have their child dentition’s correspondents, “K” and “T.”
Mr. K, I’m inclined to believe, was the first to go, on a hot summer day in Rio. When its surrogate #30 didn’t show up, we simply replaced it with a removable bridge, and that was it.
It was alright, despite the fact that I was utterly conscious of its presence inside my mouth most of the time, and had to place the humiliating fake tooth on my nightstand every night, before going to sleep. But the situation turned unbearable a few years later, when, on a Carnival morning, while my dentist was out of town for the long holiday, I started to lose Mr. T as well.
I had been losing enough around those days. Including my second husband, to whom I was more attached than I’d like to confess. Back from Brasilia with a failed relationship on my back, which had started so promisingly on the internet, I decided there was already too much on my plate. Therefore, I should allow myself to move forward, adopting some extreme measures in order to avoid dealing with two removable bridges at once, one on each side of my jaw, both having to be removed every night of my future life.
My car had recently been hit in its parking space near the back entrance of my mother’s building, so I sold it for thirty pieces of silver and invested the whole amount in a couple of dental implants, a technique that was in its early beginnings in my native Brazil.
The surgeries (one tooth at a time, separated by 15 days) were frightening, to say the least. I was laid down in a dentist office all dressed in blue, to pretend it was a classic operating room; and stayed there for hours with my mouth wide open, listening to the troublesome chatter of the two professionals who were performing the procedures, who might or might not know what they were doing at the time. When I had barely recovered from the first, I went in for the second, much worse this time, not only because I knew what I was about to go through, but because the surgeon had decided to implant two teeth instead of one on the right side, the mandatory #30 and an unjustifiable #32.
My body did not enjoy that either. Back home from the second procedure, I felt as if a truck had run me over, and the night that followed wasn’t any better: I couldn’t sleep and was feeling delirious, with a high fever. In the middle of the night, the rebellious #32 abutment jumped off my jaw, implant and all, and landed in the middle of my hurting mouth. I took it out, placed it on my nightstand and went to sleep, pain and fever suddenly gone. The next morning, I put implant and abutment in a Ziploc bag and walked three miles along the beach to the dentist office, feeling highly relieved.
“What brings you here today?” the dentist asked.
“This,” I said, in a dramatic move, triumphantly placing the rejected implant next to his hand.
He still tried to convince me to go through another nightmarish procedure, which I emphatically refused. He also declined to refund the amount I had paid in advance for the future crown, so I told him… something a lady should never tell anyone. And asked my bank to cancel the checks anyway.
Honestly, I got reasonably lucky with these implants over the years. With the exception of a minor nuisance that needed to be fixed on #30 (by another dentist, of course), I have lived peacefully and comfortably with both of them. Until…
We were driving to Atlanta the other day to renew my Brazilian passport at the local Consulate when my tooth started to ache. Weird, I thought, this is not even a tooth… and proceeded to adopt my usual resilient attitude, convincing myself it was just a side effect of a normal migraine. Except it wasn’t. When I finally gathered courage to investigate it properly, I discovered that #30 was completely loose, and on the eve of Labor Day — a long holiday, just for a change.
When the American dentist finally saw me the following Thursday (I was lucky enough to know one), there was no salvation for my tooth: The implant had broken in half, deep inside my jawbone. Or maybe it has been broken from the beginning… who knows… I soon learned that it is quite rare for an implant to break this way, not to mention that “extracting and replacing a broken dental implant is a complex surgical procedure.” In my case, as nothing with me is that simple, the dentist informed me that it was actually a “high-risk” procedure, since the remainder of the implant was dangerously close to a nerve.
At any rate, it would be fair to debate: What would be the purpose of dedicating an entire chronicle to such a highly uninteresting story as “the history of my tooth” since birth?
In fact, I was utterly surprised by my attitude towards the missing tooth: A situation that was unbearable, practically unthinkable, 20 years ago, is not bothering me at all today. After the initial shock, I must admit I’m quite open to the dentist suggestion, and will soon decide what to do about it: “I know it sounds terrible, but the best option for you would be to leave it alone, with no tooth replacement.”
It is true that our self-perception changes dramatically through the years, and so do our most cherished values. No matter how thoroughly I examine my open mouth, the empty space seems to be barely visible, and if I hadn’t decided to write about it, it would be imperceptible. Albeit unforgettable by my restless, ever-investigating tongue.
On the one hand, despite the imposing impulse to expose ourselves today on social media that we all must go against, in order to preserve our “personal privacy” to a reasonable degree, who the hell cares about what other people will think or say? Even the great Pina Bausch had a missing tooth, much more visible in her case. On the other hand, the world seems highly invested in forcing us to think the way they want us to think, and it’s getting worse by the day. I feel appalled every day by the way the “imposing left,” for example, has not only been ruling our lives, but also cluttering our real existences by shoving upon us their theoretical deliriums, insanely crafted in their globalized symposiums, allegedly designed to “save humankind.”
Let’s face it: Their pretentious assumptions have proved themselves to be as fake and intrusive as my failed implant. And it took them more or less the same amount of time to come up with their concrete, detrimental results. It all looked so much better when we were young and willing… didn’t it? When we fully supported these ideas in the first place, so full of promises, so inflated with modern foolishness.
Today, like my lost fake tooth, it is time for them to go.