Sunday Lifestyle

Cinderella’s teeth

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez Ventura - The Philippine Star

It’s not too hard for me to believe that “May, ‘tis May, the lusty month of May,” that they sang about in Camelot is ending. In my personal history this was not lusty, but the lousiest month ever.

Have you seen me personally? Have noticed that I am toothless on both sides? I looked up the diagram for adult teeth. Now, at the ripe old age off 77, I find out the teeth I lost are called pre-molars. First you have your two front teeth, flanked by your canines (teeth, not dogs) then come two first pre-molars followed by second pre-molars. Then come the molars.

So what do you do to fill in the blanks in your mouth? Now you can have implants. The thought of someone drilling into my bones to implant a tooth is horrifying. So I scratched out implants as soon as I heard about the process. For me the response has always been dentures.

I’ve had a lot of misadventures with my teeth. When I was small I played a lot with my cousins. One day their mother decided to send them all with their nannies to the dentist who specialized in cleaning little children’s teeth. We went to her clinic in a house in Makati and were given lollipops and made to choose from the Seven Dwarves cast in plaster of Paris. I remember choosing Gus and Dopey. The dwarves were white plaster so you could take them home and paint them with your watercolor set.

I didn’t mind the lollipops or the dwarves but I hated the drill. It was so loud. It made you want to close your eyes, cover your ears and shut your mouth. Thank God the dental equipment has improved through the years. Now the drills sound different. They are more shrill. They are still annoying but they don’t threaten to pop your brains.

Later on I went to see my uncle who was a dentist. He was a wonderful dentist who told you many stories and asked you many questions while his hands and instruments were in your mouth. He loved to ask, “Hindi ba?” (“That’s isn’t it?” in English.) What could you say when all you could do was grunt? One grunt for “yes.” More grunts for “no.” You could also do a sound that is milder than a shout when the drill was hurting you.

Then I went to another dentist recommended by a friend who installed dentures to make my toothlessness disappear. I was in Davao when the uppers got unglued and fell into my mouth. I was attending a three-day conference. When I returned to Manila I forgot about having them reinstalled. I remembered about three weeks later. By then they didn’t fit me anymore. Dentures are expensive. I didn’t care enough to order a new one.

How time flew! Finally, when I got remarried four years ago, my daughters were dismayed that instead of two pre-molars, I had blanks. They decided to treat me to dentures. I went to an excellent dentist. We fitted the dentures. We finished the beginning of March 2020. Just in time for the quarantine. And because I was 200-percent housebound, I forgot about them. Also my dentist closed shop all during the quarantine.

This May, dentures became my comfort activity. I don’t know whether it was somewhat but not intensely painful, but to try them on to refit many times over is strenuous at the very least. You open your mouth. They don’t fit exactly so the dentist takes the drill to shape them while you stare into the bright light and the poster on implants in front of you, listening to the sound of the drill that’s not in your mouth. Then you try them on again. They still don’t fit. Repeat the process.

I felt like Cinderella’s stepsister trying on Cinderella’s shoe. It felt like it was too small for me so I had to squeeze, put powder, ouch, drill, no try oil, help, twist, squeeze, turn, until finally it fitted: my big foot fit into the small slipper. And yet it was not totally comfortable.

Well, how do you think you would feel if you wore teeth that were not your own? It took two major visits to the dentist. The pain in my heart from having lost the election moved to my mouth, distracting me. In the end I think it gave me some relief. Only a little but relief anyway.

But the refitting is just the beginning. You have to get used to your fill-in-the-gaps teeth. You have to wear them every morning before breakfast, then brush after every meal. In the beginning it hurt a little to put them on and take them off at night, but now as time passes they are getting less inconvenient and more comfortable. Now I have turned into Cinderella, comfortable in her teeth, ready to flash you a smile any old time.

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