I have bad teeth. At least that’s how I feel. It’s probably more likely that my teeth are average. I happen to live with a person, (my wife), who has very strong teeth; only one tiny cavity in her entire life. Me? At least a dozen cavities, a half dozen caps and two veneers. I’m a dentist’s best midnight dream.
Luckily, I was born with straight teeth, (OK, I wasn’t really born with teeth). My teeth are straight, as straight as anyone who’s worn braces. I’m glad for that. And although they’re not movie star white, they’re also not as bad as Johnny Depp’s. What I do have though is a tendency to keep my dentist fitted in fine automobiles. Whether it be a new cap or a replacement for one of my veneers, I’m on a first name basis with everyone in my local dentist office. It probably helped that each of my boys needed braces (one of them got them twice).
I guess the very first visit to the dentist is my most memorable ‘dentition related’ experience (link). But perhaps second on the list would be the first time I needed a replacement or repair of a veneer. What can I say, I was a hillbilly from Hamiltucky. I would often use my teeth for everyday chores that normal people use tools for. You know, like tearing open a package of crackers or removing a spark plug from an engine block. The years of improper usage of my teeth eventually led to some uneven jaggedness on my front two teeth, (I think the dentists call them central incisors – I called them fangs).
The dentist I had in Louisiana was a very capable and nice older gentleman. I’m sure he’s retired by now. When he saw my front two fangs, he asked me if I’d ever considered getting veneers.
Me – Huh? You mean fancy blinds for the windows?
Dr – No, no, no…..not Venetian blinds – veneers. I guess you could consider them to be like blinds, I mean they will hide your front two teeth. Veneers are thin ‘new teeth’ that we glue onto your existing teeth. They’re usually made of porcelain, very attractive and we can easily match up with the color of your current teeth, (thankfully they weren’t green).
I wasn’t a difficult sell. I hated what I had done to my teeth over the years and was ready for a new leaf to be turned.
For those of you out there who don’t know what the general process is for getting veneers, well….first they drag out the big ‘ole giant hand drill with the diamond edge sanding bit. Maybe I should back up because the first thing they do, (of course), is to shoot you up in the gums with an extra large dosage of the special pain killing juice, (and too bad there’s nothing to protect us against that needle).
But anyway, yes – they sanded the heck out of my front two teeth until what I was left with was two tiny fence posts that reminded me of those lonely wooden posts you see sticking out of the ocean. All that was missing was a pair of seagulls. Luckily, they don’t leave them like that. After the grinding, the next step is to stuff your mouth with a bunch of Play-Doh. If you don’t choke, (or even if you do), the doc ends up with a Play-Doh model of your fence posts. The Play-Doh gets mailed out to some little porcelain-molding, Play-Doh playing artisan who keeps the Play-Doh and sends the dentist a pair of tiny porcelain Venetian blinds.
Meanwhile though, the dentist hooks you up with a pair of temporary veneers, (that really look as good as what you end up getting anyway so you wonder why they don’t just hook you up with the temporaries in the first place. (Hint – more money).
Within a couple of weeks, the new teeth arrived. The dentist sat me down and pried off the temps, got out the Super Glue and pasted my new veneers onto the tiny seagull posts. Result, nice looking front teeth! I was a happy camper…for about a year.
I worked at a laundry detergent production factory in Louisiana and every year we’d have an annual factory-wide outdoor picnic. (In hindsight, these were the best company outings I ever attended while working for P&G.) To my recollection, we rented an outdoor facility that had land for friendly games and competition. I want to say that there was fishing for the kids too, but I might be confusing memories. It was at one of these weekend picnics that I broke a veneer for the first time. I don’t recall what I bit into, but I do remember ending up with half of a veneer sitting on my tongue.
I have to fly to Cincinnati in the morning and have a presentation for a Director on Monday. I can’t go in feeling confident if I’m looking like the hillbilly in the movie Deliverance! What am I going to do??
And then it came to me. My high school best friend had recently opened up his own dental practice in Hamilton. Time to call in a favor! I told him all about my bind. I seem to have a history of getting medical help from high school friends. Exhibit #1, getting the boys snipped by Kevin (link). Who better then to repair a broken veneer than my best friend from high school, new dentist Joe? (Link)
Good friends are there when you really have an emergency. He told me to come on in tomorrow, (Saturday), and he’d fix me up. I told him I was in possession of the half tooth and he told me that I would be “his first”.
What? You’re a Veneer Virgin?
I got in late Friday night and set my alarm for a bright and early trip to Hamilton. Another one of my high school classmates was working with Joe, (Cheryl), so it was almost like a mini reunion, (sans comb overs, mustaches and boob jobs).
The next part was the scary part – they were both studying a manual on how to use the super glue gun for my tooth. You all know what I’m talking about – that gun with the warm blue end that they shoot your teeth with. You don’t know how it works and you’re not supposed to. I’m certain it’s radioactive.
Next, they strapped me down and Joe proceeded to climb up on the chair, hammer and chisel in hand. It took a few minutes for him to figure out how my Deliverance tooth best slid into the slot it broke away from and to be honest, I could swear that somewhere I heard fingernails against a chalkboard. Eventually though, he got it into place and they shot me with the blue plutonium gun and sent me on my way. Before leaving, I found out that my brother Mike (RIP LINK) owed Joe some money for some work he’d done. I made a personal note and sent Joe a check when I got back to Louisiana. It felt like a fair trade.
Over the years, I’ve had to replace a veneer here and there. Although resilient, they also can be delicate. I’ve learned not to bite down on ice and I tend to be careful in general with my front two teeth. I’ve had one break off before, seemingly almost for no reason. Here I am now in my new home in Arizona, no dentist yet. One of the toughest aspects about moving is the task of finding your favorite doctors. Luckily, I’m married to a nurse so she’s usually able to find out who the good ones are, (yes folks, there are bad ones).
One thing’s for sure – I definitely will miss my Fair Oaks dentist, Dr Wallace. My litmus test for a good dentist is a soft touch with the needle and Wallace was amazing! I’m not kidding – he would hit the perfect spot in my gum and I’d never feel a thing. I never knew that was possible until I found Dr Wallace. My old Hamilton doctor, (now deceased), would have to come back twice, sometimes three times before he finally would get my mouth numb. (and now that I think back on it, I recall he always had a crazy smile on his face)
Life goes on and we all get wrapped up in our own little lives. Before you know it, you’ve gotten married, had a few kids, watched them all grow up and those who were once your closest friends have all done the same. Good friends, really good friends, the friends you shared all your hopes and dreams with….they’ll always be there for you.
The best I can do for someone is to offer up some tax advice or a stock tip I guess, but hopefully you who are reading this have a few close friends you can call on in any given dire emergency. I know who I can call if I bite down too hard on an Oreo.