My Porcelain Smile - 08.23.99

I was looking in the mirror the other night after flossing my teeth and I was reminded of yet another strange accident that had happened to me as a child. Although it wasn't as traumatic as other things that have happened to me, I'm reminded by it sometimes when I slide my tongue over my teeth or after I'm done brushing.

Everything went down in the second grade one day just after recess. It had been raining quite badly all day, so on that particular day, we'd been inside the gymnasium running around and playing kick ball. While we were inside, our main object became trying to kick the ceiling (and especially the lights) with the ball instead of worrying as much about getting a home run kick. It was our little destructive sides expressing themselves, but only once did anyone even connect and damage something (and it happened to be a clock on the back wall).

Anyway, after our indoor recess was over with, the teacher called us all over to stand in our lines by the door. At that point, the two lines were divided into boys and girls and it became sort of a contest for the entire class to see which one could form into a line and become silent the fastest. Up to that point, the girls were always winning the competition due to the somewhat rowdy nature of second grade boys, but that day I thought we might actually have a chance. We'd all rushed over to the door quite fast and had even scrambled into a fairly straight line that wasn't making much noise.

Just as the teacher walked over in our direction, though, I felt a surge from the back of the group (I was about 6th from the front) and everyone started pushing forward. It was a bit like a falling row of dominoes and the kid behind me grabbed me by the shoulders as he started falling to the floor. At right about that point, things became a blur and the next thing I knew, I was laying on the floor and our teacher was yelling at us to get up, reform the line and quiet down.

As I was getting up, I noticed that something was different in my mouth. I slid my tongue across my teeth in order to probe exactly what had happened when I ran it across the front two. When it went across my left front tooth, it felt like the normally smooth surface had somehow gotten a lot more rough. Wondering how I had scratched my tooth, I put my hand to my mouth to see if I could feel it with my hand. It was at that point I realized that my tooth wasn't scratched as I had originally thought, but it was broken. Just about the time I started to realize my even worse fate, I heard a girl to the left of me exclaim, "Hey, I found a tooth!"

A commotion started instantly and my teacher came rushing to see just what was going on that would cause us to blatantly ignore her repeated wishes for straight lines and quiet voices. By the time she had gotten to me, I was holding the tooth in my hand and smiling sheepishly, not knowing quite what was going to happen.

As it turned out, she didn't do much of anything at all. She once again told everyone to be quiet, and this time people listened up. We walked back to our classroom and once we had gotten there and everyone had started working on something, she took me to a phone and we called my mom just to let her know what had happened. To this day, I still have no idea exactly how it all happened. I'm not sure whether I hit it on the wall on the way to the floor or somehow cracked it against the floor when I got pushed down. Either way, it was strange because I hadn't managed to cut my lip at all and I don't remember my head connecting with anything.

The very next day, I got out of school in the morning and went to the dentist where he did what I thought was quite a strange procedure for fixing the tooth. He smoothed the end of it off a bit with a small sanding-type of tool, then drilled two holes into what still remained of the tooth. After that, he inserted two small pins into those holes and built around them with some sort of hard, tooth-resembling substance. Even when he had finished, you could tell that my tooth was separated into two distinct pieces (because of the color) if you looked very closely. The color difference gradually increased with time, as my dead half of a tooth started changing to sort of a blue color. Still, it worked pretty well, and I had to admit that.

That is, things with the tooth worked pretty well until I was about a freshman in high-school. Somewhere around this point, I was chewing on a piece of food of some sort and felt a bit of a crackle. As I was chewing the normally soft food, I felt tiny bits of something crunchy inside it and instantly had the feeling that my tooth had gone a bit strange again.

Sure enough, when I ran my tongue across my tooth, it not only felt a bit rough, but even a bit sharp in one place. I got up from the table where I was eating and went into the bathroom to check things out a bit. When I opened up my mouth and smiled, I could see that indeed, part of my tooth had crumbled away, leaving a sort of jaggy shape on the bottom of my left front tooth. It was really strange looking, but the worst part of it all was that part of one of the pins that had been inserted was actually showing. When I smiled, you could actually see a small piece of metal (sharp metal, that is) sticking out of the bottom of the tooth.

So, once again I headed to the dentist and he set out at work on it. In sort of a mini-demolition job, he cracked away all the rest of the compound that the dentist had previously built-up, as well as took the pins out of the dead stump of tooth. Then, he sanded everything down to a respectible level and told me that he was going to just go ahead and put a cap over the entire thing. It was made of a super-strong porcelain (kind of like sinks that you may or may not have) and I was told that it should last me for a long long time.

He did the procedure and after he had finished, the only difference you could tell between the teeth was that the new cap was just a little bit more shiny and nice than the other teeth in my mouth. It didn't look that out-of-place, but once again, you could probably tell if you looked really close. That, and there is the slightest bit of space where the top of the cap doesn't reach my gum (whereas other teeth go right up into them).

Since that time, I've turned what used to be a toothy grin into more of a smirky smile. The whole crumbling-tooth saga gave me a bit of a complex about flashing my teeth, even though it really is hard to tell the difference. At least it's one less tooth to get a cavity in.