Memory Lane: My Front Tooth

In the melee the other day, Kate chipped a tooth. I didn’t notice it until bedtime, probably because of all the blood at the time of the accident, and the tooth wasn’t radically displaced. She complained of a little bit of pain after she brushed her teeth, which is probably why I was looking at her mouth in the first place.

When I noticed, when I was tucking her into bed (well, into Flora’s bed), I said, “Oh! You chipped your tooth.” It is the eyetooth, on the left.

She got very worried. “Is it all yellow like yours?” she asked, clearly concerned.

“No,” I said wryly. “But you have to go to the dentist anyway.”

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When I was 9 years old, I fell down the stairs.

I didn’t really fall so much as fly down the stairs, actually. I remember running. I was definitely running. Whether I was running because I was late, or my mother was calling me, or I was simply taking joy in speed and my 9-year-old body — I was a long-legged lightweight at 9, and over short distances, I could go very fast — I don’t know.

In any case, I went running down the stairs, flying down the stairs, and in my ineffable graceless ways, I skipped probably the last three stairs, went soaring through the air, and landed on my face.

I blacked out, although I definitely remember screaming. Maybe I blacked out when my mother, in an attempt to save my front tooth, tried to gently point it the right way down in my gum.

It was a lost cause.

Whether or not I actually fractured my nose is up for debate. I used to claim that of course I did, because, hello, look at my nose. But now that I’m older, I have to admit: I just have my dad’s nose. My mother doesn’t remember a bloody nose; she just remembers the tooth.

When I fell, or to be more precise, when I landed, I landed on the faux stone foyer by our front door. I chipped the right front tooth cleanly in half — on the diagonal.

My mother says I was face down and screaming when she got to me, and when she turned me over, she noticed the tooth — what was left of my tooth — sticking straight out — straight forward out — of my gum. She tried to, as I said, push it down. Then she called the dentist. Who wouldn’t see me because it was a Saturday.

We changed dentists.

Anyhoo, I went to school on Monday, knowing I had a dentist appointment later. I do not remember eating the rest of the weekend, although I must have. Maybe I just drank my meals for a couple of days. (Milkshakes!)

I do remember, very clearly and painfully, deciding to get a drink of water from the fountain at school at one point. I don’t recall if anyone told me beforehand about exposed nerves, but I learned about them damn fast in that hallway. I never realized how much cold water could hurt.

The dentist did his best to repair what was left. I have blocked out that process; I’m sure some kind of novacaine was involved, because I emerged with a new, whole front tooth.

For some reason, this same dentist decided not to do a root canal at the time. He thought that maybe the nerves hadn’t really been damaged, and maybe I wouldn’t need a root canal. Or at least he hoped.

He was wrong. When I was 12, my front tooth started to hurt. At first, it was just a little tender. But the pain built, and started to radiate up into the gum, and by the time I finally saw the dentist again, the whole front of my face from that tooth up to about my sinus cavities was a giant, roaring hurt.

It you have ever had an abcessed tooth, you know what I’m talking about. If not, there probably are comparable pains. Like, if you hit your thumb with a hammer. Only imagine you hit your thumb with a hammer, and then instead of stopping and getting some ice, you hit it a couple more times. Until maybe you broke your thumb and it swelled up and you could feel the pain in your elbow. That’s what an abcessed tooth feels like. Kind of.

I had a root canal. The details are hazy. At some point, my front tooth was shaved down to a peg and then they bonded something on there that loosely resembles a tooth. If you’ve ever met me, I’m sure you’ve noticed that my front tooth is discolored. It’s been this way since I was a teen.

I keep meaning to do something about it. I’m quite self conscious about it in pictures, and I always keep my lips over my teeth when smiling for them. I don’t know what would be done about it — dentists always seem to focus on the fact that I still have my wisdom teeth, and most of them don’t discuss my front tooth in any depth. I don’t know what doing something would cost, although for some reason the amount $1500 sticks in my head.

That’s a lot of diapers.

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The dentist says Kate’s mouth is fine. He took an x-ray, then smoothed out the tooth. He says there doesn’t appear to be any further trauma to the mouth, but she has to eat soft foods for a time, or foods that are cut up small. We go back in six weeks. Thank goodness it’s just a baby tooth, and her gums and permanent teeth all appear to be unaffected. *knock wood*

What’s the most traumatic injury you got as a kid? How much would you pay to erase the scars, if any?