Monday, June 23, 2008

A Fistful of Teeth

Miriam over at AnceStories 2: Stories of Me for My Descendants has a scary prompt this week - The Dentist!

Who was/were your childhood dentist(s)? Was he/she your family dentist?

I think it was the dentist from the movie Marathon Man. Seriously, the first dentist I encountered was Dr. Pollack in my hometown. A very nice man but since he had been my mother's dentist and was up there in years, his hands shook quite a bit which was unnerving, especially when it came to cavity drilling. Some days I thought for sure I'd end up using my cheek as a sieve.

Did you like or dread going to the dentist? Why?

Hated it. The reason is due to my long and tortured dental history. Not trying to give away any of the answers below, but here it is in a nutshell:

- I was born with what my family called "Irish Teeth"

- My mother took or I was given tetracylcine as a small child which severely stained my teeth

- I suffered from dentinogensis imperfecta where the teeth, especially the second set, are formed without enamel and are easily broken

- I required orthodontic work to pull a front tooth down from the gum just below my nose

Enough said.

Did you ever have cavities as a kid, or were you one of those cavity-free kids?

Suprisingly, I did not have many cavities - just one - as a kid. Of course, I didn't have many teeth so that made it kind of easy.

Did you ever need oral surgery or braces?

As I said above, I had orthodontic braces to pull a front tooth down into place and to align the other teeth. Looking back, this was a large expense for my mother and was not covered by insurance.

I also have had two major oral surgeries (requiring general anesthesia) and numerous extractions involving novacaine.

Did you ever knock a tooth out (accidentally or on purpose)?

Oh yes. I usually just had a cousin pretend he was playing the xylophone on my teeth and one would fall out.

What was the tooth fairy tradition in your childhood home? If she visited your house, how much did she pay per tooth? Did she find the tooth under your pillow or in a glass of water?

The tooth fairy was way too active in my house especially with my teeth. But I felt sort of rooked since many of my "baby teeth" would not come out by themselves and required extraction at the dentist.

I left my tooth under the pillow and in the morning there was usually a quarter in its place. One time there was a miniature bottle of scotch. I don't know what that was all about but my mother quickly snatched it out of my hand the next morning and said that the Tooth Fairy obviously made a mistake. LOL.

What was the worst dental exam or procedure you had done?

Hmmmm - hard to pick since there have been so many. My most recent surgery in April 2005 where I had all my teeth removed in preparation for dentures (see below).

What is your favorite memory of the dentist?

Leaving his office.

How have your adult experiences at the dentist compared with those of your childhood?

About the same - my mother could not believe how I just took all the visits in stride and almost never complained about the pain or inconvenience. To me, it was just a fact of life even though my brother never suffered the dental horrors that I had.

Do you still have the same dentist? Why or why not?

I can proudly say that I am now dentist free. Well, the dentist I have is a good friend of mine here in Chicago who actually runs a denture manufacturing shop so I can go back to him for realignment when I need to.

If you have children, what is/was the tooth fairy tradition for them?

Miniature bottles of scotch.

Have you had to have dentures or bridgework?

I finally have dentures and I can truly say that it is a relief. During the past few years I kept getting infections in my mouth due to the state of my teeth. When the last one went up into my right eye, I said enough is enough - they had to come out. My biggest fear was having the infection travel to my heart or somewhere else.

No regrets at all - it is a nuisance to take them out and put them in though. I have considered implants but right now most insurance companies consider them to be "cosmetic" in nature and thus the cost is not covered.

Describe your oral health history and relate your opinion as to the causes behind your good or poor oral health.

Much of my poor oral health is due to genetics. All of my mother's siblings have dentures and suffered the same problems that I did. I just thought that in my time there had been enough advances made to save my teeth. If I had known all the time, money and torture involved which ultimately led to dentures anyway, I would have had dentures done almost 30 years ago.

Are there any dentists, oral surgeons, orthodontists, dental technicians or assistants in your family tree?


Are there any stories in your family history about going to the dentist and the kinds of treatments experienced in the old days?

One curious story from my great-grandmother Therese McGinnis Austin: she stated that back when she was a child, there was no toothpaste. Basically they brushed their teeth with ashes and a stick. Sounds like one of those "family legends" handed down to show how hard life was back then. Sort of like "Grandpa had to walk five miles to school - uphill - each way and carried a hot potato in his pocket to keep warm in the winter."


Miriam said...

Fascinating responses, Thomas.

By the way, ashes WERE used to clean teeth in the old days before toothpaste. Ashes have lime (the mineral, not the fruit) in them, which is the key ingredient in making whitewash. It stands to reason that this would be a natural way to clean teeth, using something that would whiten and that had calcium in it.

Apple said...

Scotch! Boy did I grow up in the wrong household, I got dimes.