What is it with teeth, anyway? They’re these little bits of bone sticking out inside our heads. They work. They chomp up our food and send it to the esophagus in manageable pieces. Isn’t that the point?
So there I am, my ankles daintily crossed and my brand-new, still giving me blisters patent Nine West black flats reflecting the beams of that dreadful overhead lamp they use when peering in your mouth – thinking to myself, “Why am I paying to hear, ‘She has a lot of staining – yeah, definitely’ whispered about when I’m right there?” My dentist grins at me. “You drink a lotta tea?” She asks. Well, yes! Yes, I do. My father is from ENGLAND. Tea practically flows in my veins! Wait. Are you telling me that my tea, my warm mug of amber colored joy, has been causing, heaven forbid, STAINS on my teeth!?
I’m now near panicking. Maybe I should stop eating altogether. I mean, stains on my teeth two weeks before I embark on this “adventure” called a semester abroad in Washington, DC? I’m about to walk into a suite of offices in the heart of the city, my new suit still starchy from the Kittery outlet where I bought it, and I could be smiling at my new employer giving him full view of TEA STAINS.
But the dentist has more to say about my teeth. I have three “tiny” cavities. Three! Admittedly, I’ve been avoiding the dentist like the plague since May of last year, partly because of my college student schedule, and partly because I probably suspected long ago that I’d hear the dreadful “c” word and have to come back to have my teeth blasted with sand and filled with cement. When it’s put like that, I have to think to myself, “Am I a road construction site?”
So today, lucky me, I got to go BACK to the dentist to have these three "tiny" cavities filled. And once again I was filled with awe at the lengths I'll go to avoid dental immorality. A drill, an infrared (or something equally impressive) light, a huge suction tube, and some kind of teeth glue have all been put into my mouth today. All I know is that if I saw a child sticking those things in their mouth of their own curious volition, I would scream bloody murder and rush to save them! And instead I'm opening my mouth WIDER so that the drill can drill further. It seems ironic.
The heart of my musings about the dentist is really about aesthetic fears. I've gone to the trouble of having my cavities filled and my teeth cleaned because I am afraid of what a cavity-filled, tea-stained mouth would mean. But when I really stop to think about it, I shouldn't be worried that the people walking the streets of DC are going to smirk to themselves and whisper to their subway companions, "What poor oral care! She really should pay more attention to brushing those rear molars, don't you think?" I am sensitive to the dentist's critique of my mouth's aesthetic appeal, but to comment on another person's mouth would just never occur to me.
Thinking about this in the context of heading to Washington, DC in one week, I'm struck by how much thinking I have to do about what I want to present of myself. If my head is full of peridontal necessities, where is the room for a quick mind, the latest Wall St. Journal editorial, and an opinion about international energy policy? If we fill our hearts with aesthetic fears, where will the exuberance and joy go? As I sit in the dentist chair and worry about how beautiful my teeth are (or how stained, or how crooked), I'm ignoring the truth that the words coming out of my mouth have much more to do with its beauty than my regular trips to the dentist chair. As I make my plans to embark to the city, I hope I can put my aesthetic fears to rest, and focus instead on having good ideas and good words - pearly white teeth or no pearly white teeth.