The history of my life can be told--much of it--by my teeth.
Apparently I didn’t have any at first, being satisfied to gum my way through my servings. I can’t remember my first tooth, which is odd considering how so many parents celebrate that historic event.
It wasn’t until I was about 14 that my mother took me and my two brothers to a dentist in Prince Albert. By then there was quite a lot of work to be done, at a cost I remember as one dollar per extraction, two per filling. Today you would have to add another two zeros and more to each of those prices. (My brother Jim remembers them as slightly higher, something like two dollars for extractions, three for fillings.) Still, it was money not easy to come by in those days.
Then, while still in my teens, trauma: one of my two upper front teeth was partly chipped by a hockey stick. A few years later the same tooth and its neighbour were further shortened due to, well, to a disagreement of sorts. Soon after that I had the two teeth removed and replaced with a partial plate. I liked to scare kids and startle adults by suddenly thrusting it forward with my tongue for a super overbite appearance. A childish trick, yes, but worth the result.
Then in my 50s, after several partials--they often broke--I had a major overhaul done in Nipawin. Dentists had told me that because of the inner shape of my mouth, dentures would likely not work well. I had to make two or three trips to Saskatoon for mouth-roof surgery. Then came a root canal and crown or two, a bridge across the four central upper teeth and a partial replacing some lower molars. Esther, then my new wife, was astounded by the cost. She liked to tell people I had a Cadillac in my mouth.(She exaggerates. A Honda Civic maybe.) I get a dental check-up twice a year and usually a filling--and twice further root canals--every few months.
Now those of you familiar with the animals know you can tell the age of a horse by its teeth--the amount of recession of the gums. And two dental hygienists in two cities told me that because it’s been a long time since my colthood I must do something to save my lower teeth. At a check-up about two weeks ago it was suggested I buy a water flosser. It uses a tiny pressurized jet of water to flush out plaque.
Well Esther, ever the bargain hunter, found me one of the devices and about 10 days ago I gave it my first try. It looks quite innocent sitting there beside the bathroom sink, a small plastic machine. But believe me it can be a monster. It’s quite easy for cartoon people to use, the cartoon people, that is, in the video that shows you how to use the thing. They do it neatly and quickly.
Me not so much. What followed was a battle and the machine won the first round. I stuck the tip in my mouth, pointed it at my teeth, pressed the switch and the machine went berserk. It twisted like a snake, the stream blasted me in the face , onto the mirror, all the objects by the sink, over my shirt. Flailing around to stop it my arm struck the machine and knocked it over, where its tank spilled water onto everything that wasn’t already soaked. What a mess.
I tried again three or four times but with little success. Trying to the manipulate the tips of the jet and the pocket flusher at just the right angles inside your mouth where you can’t see them while water is running constantly out of your mouth into the sink or onto you, is tricky. I had almost given up and wondered if I should have taken the hygienists’ other suggestion, an electric toothbrush.
However, since then I am gradually gaining control over the beast--practice does indeed make perfect, though I’m not at that point yet. However Esther, listening to the not-so-uplifting conversations I had with the machine at its worst, had gone out and bought the electric toothbrush. I’m not, however, ready for another dental war.