Toward the end of July, while I was in Lyme, New Hampshire celebrating a friend's third marriage, I bit into a fancy cracker that was topped with a fragment of sun-dried tomato. With my tongue I felt what I assumed to be small stone. I spit it into my hand and after a few disorienting moments realized that I was looking at one of my very own teeth. Number 10, in dentist's language, upper left front. I was shocked; I'm not used to teeth falling out of my head-- especially so undramatically. No pain, no cracking sound. I put the tooth in my pocket and found a mirror to inspect myself -- mighty vampirish, I thought. The next day I saw a dentist down in Thetford and was advised that I needed a root canal, followed by a "post and crown," which sounded less like a dental process than a London pub. A week or so later and I was off to White River to a root canal guy, who hummed Joanie Mitchell songs while digging into my mouth and kept checking the weather to see if he could get in a golf game before the rains came. I asked him why the procedure was so damn expensive and he muttered something mighty unconvincing about the "level of technology." What with the abscess and all it took two long visits for him to finish rooting around in my canal. And then one day I took a drink of homemade lemonade and felt another tooth fall out, but -- false alarm --it was just a lemon pip. The root canal didn't do anything about the big empty space in my head. I've heard that there are some ladies who find that other-side-of-the-tracks look quite attractive, but in all honestly it didn't seem to do much for my woman. So back home to Colorado and a visit to still another dentist, who installed a post and also a temporary artificial tooth and sent me to the "lab" for a "custom color." The lab was a surreal experience-- way out in the country in a dumpy building there's a oversize space where several rows of white-coated-scientist types with microscopes and very official looking tools sat crafting teeth. Probably out-of-work sculptors, or possibly impoverished MFA students.
Custom color -- why would I want a custom color? After the house and the car, this prosthesis is going to be the most expensive object I own. I think it should be gleaming white, not mottled and yellowed like my native teeth. I'm paying big money, and I want everyone to know that #10 is brand new. I wouldn't buy a new car and immediately dent and scratch it, would I?
Another couple of weeks and I should be all custom-colored, posted, and crowned. And from now on I'll remember to stay away from sun-dried tomatoes. Dangerous stuff.
September 20. I've been putting the old tooth under my pillow for a month now, but no luck. Apparently the tooth fairy is indifferent to sexagenarian choppers.
September 28. The permanent fake tooth has now been installed. I like it better than the original. It does its job and it's not going to have cavities or fillings or pain. If I had the cash I'd give thought to a full set.