I’ll never forget losing my first tooth. It was at my grandfather’s house; I was five years old and had no inkling that some day I’d be an old man like him.
All through our youth, and well beyond, we never think old age will come our way. We know it intellectually, but for some reason, think we’ll escape it, and the infirmities that go with it. Some people actually do escape the infirmities. You see them paraded out on TV all the time, like the 103-year-old woman who climbed aboard a bull at a nursing home making the highlight reel on the evening news last week. It was one of those feel good endings that they tack on to make us feel warm and fuzzy after blasting us with 30 minutes of dreadful news and life threatening weather forecasts.
But, back to the tooth, that first one I pried out, grasping it with a handkerchief because the looseness was driving me nuts and the dime from the Tooth Fairy that would await me under my pillow when I woke up the next morning. Not as exciting as waiting for Santa Claus to come down the chimney loaded with presents, but still a big deal for a five-year-old.
I slipped the tooth under my pillow that night and woke to a shiny dime. I was a little disappointed. I was hoping for a nickel. I thought a nickel was worth more than a dime because it was bigger.
That baby tooth was soon replaced with a so called “permanent” tooth, but as us old coots know, permanence is not guaranteed, not if you crunch down hard on an un-popped, popcorn kernel. I broke a few corners off doing that.
There are plenty of other oral surprises that lurk in the dark, waiting to visit you at the worst possible moment. You can also lose some teeth by shooting off your mouth to the wrong guy and discover that your ducking skills are no longer what they once were.
I also didn’t consider the expense I’d incur, over a lifetime, when I yanked out that milk tooth and invited in my first permanent one. I ended up with a mouthful of liabilities, eventually receiving 32 of those white devils. I parted company with the 4 wisdom teeth before I left my 30s; I’m not down to 28.
Over time, another three rats deserted the sinking ship, two lost to my love affair with popcorn and one that just woke me up one morning and said, “I’ve got to get out of here!” They were all in the back part of my mouth and didn’t really need to be replaced. Not like those front teeth that make you look like a goober when they’re gone.
The tooth fairy skipped my pillow when that threesome came out; she slipped the cash under my dentist’s pillow instead, depositing a lot more than a shiny dime.
I have no regrets on that score. I love my dentist; she’s been a savior on many instances over the years. I got a dime to welcome in a permanent tooth when I was five, but now spend about five dollars per tooth to get them professionally cleaned.
I think the disparity of getting a dime to make room for a tooth that costs five bucks in maintenance, twice a year, is a lopsided financial transaction. I should have held out for a dental plan when I lost the first one.
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