Today was my seven month follow-up appointment with Dr. Vail, my hip surgeon, and yesterday was my semi-annual checkup with my dentist. When I saw these calendar items nestled side-by-side in the monthly view of Outlook, I realized that I have two doctors advising me on two different prostheses.
When I was seven, a dog attacked me. I was at my friend’s house, where my friend and I spent the afternoon playing with his 18-month old golden retriever. Shortly after my mom arrived to pick me up, the dog lost patience with me, and I ended up spending the next five days in the hospital. If turning my cheeks into torn curtains of flesh wasn’t bad enough, the dog also knocked out my new adult front teeth.
A plastic surgeon used 118 stitches to repair my face, and a dental surgeon replanted my teeth. Although the dentist hoped my roots would reattach, after a couple of years, it was clear that my front teeth were dying. The dentist replaced my natural teeth with fake teeth fixed to a retainer, a device that resembled a small plastic rabbit. The scars have faded, but dentures still fill the hole in my smile.
As a kid, I enjoyed having false teeth. I took out my teeth to make my vampire and rugby player Halloween costumes more realistic. I impressed my friends by flicking my teeth in and out of my mouth without using my hands, just my tongue. I didn’t need tooth picks. I used the edges of my retainer to pick out the food that got caught between my teeth. The added benefit of doing this at the dinner table was that it drove my brother crazy. “Stop doing that! You’re disgusting!” I’m sure it annoyed my mom too, but she saw the dog attack me, so she rarely asked me not to play with my teeth.
Now that I’m older, the novelty of dentures has worn off. My kids love it when I take my teeth out, but I’m teaching them manners, so I try not to pick my teeth at the table anymore. Prior to my hip resurfacing, I considered having my dentist install a permanent bridge that would attach to my incisors. Alternatively, my dentist could implant permanent teeth by drilling stems into my skull. I would have to spend over six months in braces to realign my upper teeth before the implants could be installed, so I nixed that option. But now that my hip surgery is behind me, I am once again thinking about replacing my dentures with a bridge.
With removable teeth and a metal hip, I feel like Mr. Potato Head. A friend pointed out that I’m just like all the celebrities in California. I didn’t think Kim Kardashian and I had much in common, but as my friend said, we each have “lots of replacement parts.”
Although it’s time I retired my dentures, unlike the Kardashians, I am in no rush to undergo another surgery. My dentist explained that installing a permanent bridge is not a complicated procedure. It can’t be harder than replacing a hip, but the follow up appointments will be more stressful than those with Dr. Vail. Dr. Vail doesn’t lecture me about flossing.
PS. My friend, Stu, took the above photo after he and I jumped out of a plane. I was afraid that during the free fall my front teeth might end up somewhere off the coast of Hawaii, so I left them in the car.