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I do not wear a denture.
And I am becoming peeved about it.
Allow me to explain ...
In my youth I was one of those people who are marked out by Father Darwin as his own. You know the kind -- accident-prone. We are not talking trivial accidents or toddler nonsense either (although I have a fairly interesting scar on my forehead from the time, at age two, when I jumped for the front-door knob and fell face-first on a metal boot-grate). I tend to get socked by any passing accident in progress at the drop of a hat. I mean, if a hat was going to drop in my neighbourhood, it would probably be made of lead and have sharp edges[*]. It's not just my eyesight (fucked: retinal scarring in one eye, degenerated macula in the other following a detached retina), nor is it my general cack-handedness (I walk into people while trying to dodge them -- I dodge the wrong way); it's probably to do with me being born under an unlucky galaxy, or something.
Anyway. My mother did a fairly good job of keeping me away from lethal equipment in my pre-teen years. No bicycle until I was 19 and living away from home; no roller-skates or skateboards or boxing or sledging. I did make an attempt at skiing in my teens, but one high-speed catastrophe that nearly cost me a leg taught me that this was a bad idea.
However, she didn't do quite a good enough job all the time. You see, I did go sledging. The once.
My elder siblings weren't quite so accident prone, and they'd owned a sledge. One day when I was 13 I discovered the rusty toboggan in the back of our garage, so I dug it out, scratched my head, and tried to figure out which way up it went. After a bit, I'd just about gotten the hang of the idea -- you sit on this lump of metal and wood, point it downhill, and kick off -- and was practicing in the neighbourhood park with a friend. However, I was still unclear on two fundamental points, because I'd never ever been sledging before. Namely (1) you can stop by jumping off the thing in an emergency, and (2) you can steer.
Which is how come the biggest oak tree in the park jumped out in front of me on my way -- face first -- down the steepest hill in the neighbourhood.
The toboggan was made of tube steel. It was a write-off.
My pelvis was nearly a write-off, too. I managed to make it home using the sledge as a zimmer frame, then subsided into a state of obvious concussion. I came up in traffic lights, all across my lower abdomen -- yellow, green, and red bruises. The obligatory doctor's visit determined that I hadn't sprung any major leaks or hernias, and although my lower front teeth were a bit chipped there didn't seem to be any permanent damage to my frontal aspect. However, one of my upper teeth ached an awful lot -- and the ache didn't go away.
Cue the trip to the dentist. "Oh, it seems to be broken off inside his jaw," said the quack. "And it's really interestingly fractured." Cue the referral to the dental hospital, where a psychopath with a pair of pliers and a thing like a wrench levered splintered bits of my right upper incisor out of my head, leaving a pretty hole where my eye tooth belonged. "I guess we'll have to give you a denture." Oh, the ignominy of it! For yes, you too can be the first boy in your class to have an NHS denture.
It did have certain potential for fun, though, especially after I discovered the thirty-something psychology-graduate english teacher who was so squicked by me sticking it out at him that he couldn't make up his mind whether to confiscate the icky thing or leave it in my mouth. (This was so much fun that I sometimes contemplated spooning out an eyeball.)
Anyway, time rolls on. My dentist originally told me that some time around the time I turned 18 it should be possible to install bridgework. However, when I went for that fateful appointment, there was some bad news. "It's the teeth to either side of your gap that are the problem. On one side we can anchor it, but on the other I'd have to drill the post through two neighbouring teeth to get a secure grip, killing them. Now your teeth are in good condition today, but if I do this now then by the time you're forty they'll be rotting in your head, and you'll need a denture again, for good."
Time rolls on some more.
At the age of 26 I went to another dentist, a South African emigre with a sharklike grin and a neat line in high-tech equipment. "Yes, there's a new technique called a Maryland Clip. We can superglue a metal plate across the back of the teeth to either side of your gap and hang a bridge off the plate. However, the Family Practitioner's Committee hasn't approved it for general NHS use, so if you want it on the NHS, you'll have to beg." Hmm. "How much to do it privately?" I asked. "Oh, five hundred pounds or so," he said airly; "or we can do you a special on titanium memory-metal bone implants for a couple of thousand."
I passed on the high-tech option and opted for a new, improved, lightweight metal alloy NHS denture to replace the clunky old fibreglass ones that kept breaking every couple of years.
Time doesn't so much roll on as accelerate towards take-off speed along a visibly shortening runway. I pass 30, move to Edinburgh, and my trusty metal denture stays beside me along the way. Until, one evening, I bite into a tuna sandwich and -- for no obvious reason -- the tooth shears off.
Time and cheap NHS fibreglass have given me a degree of expertise in the makeshift repair of dental prostheses, but I can see at a glance that this one isn't going to work with the old superglue trick. So I sigh and make an appointment with the nearest dental practice.
"How much for the repair?" I ask. "Oh, you don't have to pay," says the dentist; "it's an NHS one, isn't it? The first repair is covered under warranty. But I wouldn't bother if I were you. We can do you a bridge for ninety pounds."
?!?Peeve: the cost of the Maryland Clip had dropped 80% in five years and instead of being an outre luxury treatment it's become standard practice on the NHS. I feel ancient.
So I signed up for the bridgework.
!Peeve #1: no needles in the entire process. No real pain, either.
Peeve #1: they sanded the back of the teeth to either side of my gap two weeks before they put the bridge in, to provide a rough surface for the bond. Having the backs of your teeth feel like sandpaper is not recommended.
!Peeve #2: I don't have to take my front tooth out at night any more.
Peeve #2: I'm used to trapping food crumbs under my dental plate when I eat. So I have to sort of use my tongue to push out my front tooth so I can clean under it. Over 18 years this has become a reflex that's hard to shed. Trying to push out a firmly anchored front tooth with your tongue every time you eat is a weird sensation.
Peeve #3: the roof of my mouth, shrouded for aeons by a sheet of armour plating, is now naked to the villainous influence of foodstuffs like curry or marmite. Feels like I'm eating steel wool.
Peeve #4: I like being able to take my teeth out. Yes, this is perverse, but it's a strangely sensual pleasure, a bit like walking around naked. Now I can't do it any more I feel disconcerted, and a little bit peeved.
!Peeve #3: I was able to use my relatively painfree experience to con Feorag into going to see the dentist for the first time in 4+ years (apart from emergency treatment). As she turned out to be about a week away from developing a bone abcess, this was a Good Thing(TM). However, she is now in a fair bit of pain, as the dentist reconstructs various damaged molars and premolars with the aid of long, sharp bits of metal. This means more FeoPeeves(TM). As soon as she learns to post from this system ...
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