Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In Which She First Develops a Bad Taste in Her Mouth for the Tooth Doctor

Brought to you by the question the dental hygienist posed yesterday during my torture cleaning:

"So, did something traumatic happen to you that caused you to feel this way about dentists?"

I told her this story, though you may understand it better since I do not have fingers and various devices protruding from my mouth:

Growing up as a missionary kid, I never had the opportunity to get to know my relatives very well because I only saw them every four years when we would come back to the States for a year's furlough. Because we furloughed in California where my maternal relatives lived, I spent more time with them. During weekly visits to my grandmother's and holidays spent sitting at the kids' table with my cousins, I established at least a surface relationship with most of my mom's family.

The rare visits with my dad's family in Georgia were the special ones, though. There was something so comfortable and friendly about my grandparents' house in the small, southern town, a striking contrast to the noise, smog, and busyness of Los Angeles. Rincon was a town where everyone knew your name. I would go down to the post office with my grandfather, and the postmaster would greet him, "Good morning, Mr. Mac! Oh, and this must be your granddaughter." Obviously, he had been sharing his excitement about our visit.

I loved their house too. Outside was the ever-present smell of pine trees with a passing whiff of the paper mill in nearby Savannah. Not that paper mills give off a pleasant smell, but the odor always reminded me of Rincon, and that was a pleasant feeling. Inside there was the delicious aroma of fresh cornbread mixed with whatever meat dish would grace the table for dinner.

As weird as it sounds, one of my favorite things at my grandparents' house was in their bathroom. It was on their bathroom counter where I would always find the two plastic figurines. Or at least I thought they were figurines. They delighted me because they were a plump grandma with rosy cheeks and wire-frame spectacles, and an equally plump and jolly grandpa. And they stood there, cheerily, on the counter. I was even more delighted when I discovered the truth about these figurines. They were actually containers that held Grandma and Grandpa's teeth at night. And you can believe I crept into their bathroom many a night to sneak a peek at their teeth lying in the recesses of their respective Grandma and Grandpa Figurines.

I had many a discussion with my parents about these fun containers that held Grandma and Grandpa's teeth. I told my parents I wanted to one day have false teeth and a similar container in which to store them. At three-years-old, I had no idea of the prophetic nature of my grand desires. In fact, even as I spoke of my lofty teeth ambitions, my teeth were rotting in my mouth.

As a baby and young toddler, my parents had allowed me to fall asleep with my bottle, and the bottle contained a formula which contained sugar. Apparently, sucking on a bottle of sugar all night is bad for your teeth. So by the time I was four years old, all of my front teeth were rotten.

It was time for the dentist. And I honestly have mostly fond memories of this dentist's office. It took up the 3rd floor of an office building overlooking one of Los Angeles's freeways. I enjoyed sitting in the chair watching the cars go by. Seeing cars as numerous as one finds in L.A. was always culture shock for me. They always gave me a new weiner dog toothbrush. This was a toothbrush in a clear tube, and on either end was one end of the dog. A real dental treasure for a 4-year-old. Finally, they had a treasure chest to beat the band. It was in the shape of an actual treasure chest and was full of such a variety of treasures from which to choose, it was overwhelming.

Despite my adoration for this dentist, I inevitably had to undergo The Extraction. All of my front teeth came out. And I can only assume my x-rays showed no signs of any permanent teeth making their appearance any time soon, so rather than put me on a liquid diet for two years, I got temporary false teeth.

You would think, given my grand aspirations of one day sporting a good set of false teeth, I would have been elated. However, after the False Teeth Installation, I was presented with the harsh reality that I had just been given a set of false teeth that were attached to my mouth. No removing my teeth at bedtime. No putting them in a cute little jar beside the sink. These were no fun at all. With this realization, I was happy to find out that I would only have these false teeth until my permanent teeth emerged.

And with this experience, I learned several things. One, the Tooth Fairy knows that a whole mouthful of extracted teeth is worth way more than a quarter; I can still picture the lovely beaded flower necklace that came with the quarter. Secondly, not all false teeth are as cool as Grandma and Grandpa's. And third, the dentist is not a fun place to be.

For more "Things I Learned", visit Musings of a Housewife.


JanMary said...

Great story - thanks for sharing :)

I too was at the hygienist the other day - don't mind the dentist, but hate getting my teeth polished by the hygienist!

tsinclair said...

I guess I combined my last comment with this post...sorry.

I can only say that any completed trip to the dentist needs to be celebrated.

CrossView said...

Ok, that's just sad. =( I can't imagine what that was like to be so little. Obviously, pretty bad if you still remember all those details.

But I'm so glad you're off the bottle now! That way you can keep your big girl teeth!