All I Want for New Year’s Is My Front Tooth Back

April 20th, 2009 by billgraham

On New Year’s Eve my family played a game called Wits & Wagers as the hours slid toward midnight. With guests from Texas staying with us, we had seven players around the table, pushing the limits of the game’s scorecards, pencils, chips, and other playware.

Wits & Wagers is a game that the whole family can be competitive in. A question with a numerical answer is asked, players write down their answer, and then bet on the answer they think is closest to being correct. My 12-year-old daughter won one round and her 74-year-old grandmother won another. Even I won a round, which means that Tinky Winky and La La would probably have a fighting chance.

So there I am in our fifth or sixth round, sitting next to my wife and her mother and hating their guts because they’re beating me. Again. I’m vigorously chomping on a bowlful of Tostitos with Hint of Lime. “What percentage of the world’s population lives in the United States?” says our Texas emcee. As I begin my always tortured thought process, I put another tortilla chip in my mouth, crunch down, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a tooth, dislodged from its moorings in my upper mouth.

Here let me explain: In addition to bilateral cochlear implants I also have a tooth implant, my upper left front tooth to be specific. I lost my biological upper left front tooth about 12 years ago in a rather unique way: I hit my head on a tree trunk while running up a mountain.

The tree had been downed during a windstorm and had fallen across the trail, about 5-1/2 feet above it. My exercise partner Andy, who’s a few inches shorter than I am, ran ahead of me. I ran looking down at the trail to avoid tripping on exposed roots and rocks. Andy didn’t break stride when we came to the tree; he just ducked a bit going under it. But I didn’t see it coming. I hit the trunk head on and it knocked me flat on my back. Stars and exclamation points swirled above me.

“You okay?” Andy asked.

“Yeah, yeah, I guess.” 

“You don’t look okay.”

“No, no, I’m okay,” I said valiantly. “Let’s go.”

I staggered to my feet and we continued up and down the mountain. The next day, when I woke up, I found that I could wiggle my upper left front tooth. I kept wiggling it with my tongue and finger for several days before I surrendered and went to the dentist.

“How did this happen?” the dentist asked.

“I ran into a tree trunk,” I said.

“A tree trunk?….Okay,” she said. “Open wider.”

She peered into my mouth and with her fingers pulled the tooth out easily, like you’d snap off a match from a matchbook.

“Gee,” she said, shaking her head. “Why didn’t you come in earlier?”

“It didn’t hurt,” I said.

“Okay.”

To make a long story short, I ended up getting a tooth implant. This involved having a dental sadist called a prosthodontist drill a metal screw into my upper jawbone, attach a small metal post to the screw, and then install the replacement tooth over it. Except for being a tad whiter now than the rest of my mouth, it’s served me well for 12 years.

But there it was in my hand on New Year’s Eve, our party in full swing, the clock ticking closer to midnight. I didn’t think the dentist would be up for this right then. I wasn’t up for this right then.

Karina said, “Let me call Dorrie and see what Lloyd does when his tooth falls out.”

Dorrie is a friend in Cincinnati. I didn’t know her husband had an implant, too. Apparently dental implants have become as common as c. i.’s, and will soon be available at Sam’s Club. 

So Karina calls Dorrie who says that Lloyd uses PoliGrip to keep the tooth cap in place after it falls out.

My mother-in-law shakes her head: “PoliGrip? Why would he use that? You have to reapply it every day. Use Super Glue.”

A discussion ensues.

“Glue it.”

“But it happens to Lloyd all the time, and he uses PoliGrip.”

“It happens all the time beCAUSE he uses PoliGrip. Glue it.”

“Let’s call the dentist’s emergency number.” “Mom, let’s play the game.”

I consider both sides of the argument and decide to do nothing. I just stick the tooth back on the post.“But you won’t be able to eat,” says Karina.I look at my watch. It’s almost 11. “Well, it’s all drinking from here. No problem.”

We put the game away and watch the movie Holiday Inn on television, switching to the local channels during commercials to see the countdown to midnight. Bing gets the girl, the new year begins, and everybody wanders off to bed except me. I’m looking in the bathroom mirror at my upper left front tooth. I pull it off and put it back on a few times.

I rummage through my desk for an adhesive, and come up with some Krazy Glue. I put a few drops in the socket of the tooth, slip it back on, and hold it there a few minutes. Then I put my bite guard in so the tooth won’t end up in my stomach, and go to bed.

The next morning, New Year’s Day, the tooth is still glued to the post. I eat, I drink, I try to be merry. I’ll go to the dentist today or tomorrow and get it fixed. Or maybe Monday. Why ruin the new year any sooner than you have to?

About 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the United States. Just so you know.