Down in the Mouth

As a blogger over the years, I’ve generally avoided sharing  the nuances of bodily state or machinations of marital war and peace. (If there are regular readers out there, even on a Friday, you’ll have already nailed me as a liar on both counts. There are even several pieces about the spousal unit in Slow Road and What We Hold in Our Hands. So sue me.)

I don’t think, however, with the exception of the selfie from the dentist chair in the nitrous oxide clown mask (which I would have linked here but cannot locate), I’ve not  talked teeth very much. Thankfully, the choppers have held up pretty well to the daily grind. This morning however, we have an Oral Code Red Alert.

And as you are certainly aware, such emergencies unfailingly happen while out of town on a weekend over a holiday while expected for an important meeting. Or some combination of two or more of these ingredients. Today’s crisis qualifies, so in my own mind at least, this is a big deal:

My upper incisor (that would the front toof to you lay-persons) calved the entire back side like a melting Arctic glacier. The face of the tooth remains, fragile as gramma’s crystal gravy bowl, and with one vertical edge gone black, just enough to suggest a hint of Jethro Bodine.

The sleep-robbing part of this just-before-bedtime  breakdown in the status quo of my personal body is the inconvenience and “unexpected” expense here in the early months of fixed income. I can’t say I didn’t see the threat on the horizon. Let me quote myself from less than a week ago, where I failed to acknowledge the looming threat of Dental Disaster:

“But the unexpected, inevitable death of major appliances, of vehicles or for home repairs—all live inside a black hole. And of course we face the increasing probability of medical expenses over and above what the best combination of SS plus Supplemental will cover. We’re quite healthy at the moment. But…

These leaks, the Great Flushing, can happen as quickly as the Titanic hitting an iceberg—and so it makes those of us in the Jacuzzi of the Golden Years necessarily cautious about what would once have been significant but not sleep-depriving decisions.”

Yes, I could just have the stump of the tooth pulled and be content to  lose the ability to whistle ever again. At the same time, I would gain status as featured personality in town with some of the tourists of a Friday night who may have come to see stereotypical Appalachian edentulous half-wits.

But no. I’ll pay the thousands out of retirement-shallow pockets (and in the absence of any dental version of Medicare) over the course of who knows how many 4 hour visits to Blacksburg. This is what it will cost to return to cosmetic integrity–an imagined personal state of rugged good looks whose ship has sailed if indeed it ever docked.  At this stage of life, self-image and ego whimper from under the front porch and a body learns humility, with daily lessons and homework.

So folks, the Titanic has hit the iceberg–on a day the dentist office is closed, while we are six hours from home, herding cats. I will be meeting numerous organizational associates at an important meeting. Without smiling. Or whistling. And all I want for Christmas is…well, I don’t generally blog about such personal matters.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. We want pleasure and good things, all the time. We fear pain. Only gains, no losses.

    We used to have someone come to the Wild Gardeners get-togethers, someone I had known for 20 years. She died two years ago. It struck me at one of the get-togethers that she used to come and was part of the group and now she wasn’t here. The group had changed slightly but didn’t seem to notice. The only constant is change.

  2. You made me laugh and I hope you gave yourself at least a wry grin. I suggest you compromise with vanity: go the cheap route with a partial denture. Keep most of those dollars in your pocket instead of a high-falutin’ dentist’s.

  3. I have a Monday appointment w the denti$t and will hope it is a patch rather than a prosthesis of some kind. Dear me. Our dental policy used to be crappy but no policy at all this side of 65 is far crappier.

  4. I know exactly how you feel. Four months ago the very same thing happened to me. Same tooth even, by the sound of it. Two months later, and three visits to Blacksburg, my new bridge looks even better than the old tooth. But my checkbook is also thousands of dollars lighter.

    Maybe we should compare smiles next time we see one another!

  5. Had to look up ‘edentulous’! Should have just guessed! Retired 4 years here, and just ended up with surprise heart surgery – yes, retirement throws you a curve sometimes. Luckily I have the Canadian health care system!