No. 51 Toofie Travelogue March 23, 2021

Alfreda and Edwina Blanks

Grappling with life’s mysteries, I long for a cultivated society where newborns receive a heads up on the ministration of teeth. A possible tooth travelogue issued to the proud parents tucked into that knitted cap that is now considered de rigueur. It would be an a go-to manual with timelines, possible procedures, things not to do, best utilizations etc.

Let us say that teeth are on my mind. As my grandchildren are losing theirs through natural and athletic routines, I’m considering the fate of mine. My focus began in my Tupelo Grandmother Edwina’s fancy new powder room. She was arched over the lavatory the better to examine her recent diagnosis of Pyria.

“Your Wee (third person for emphasis) should have taken better care of her teeth,” she said. I screwed up the courage to take on the show and tell; not pretty. “I know your Daddy has taught you how to take care of your toofies,” she mummered as she clenched and bared turning side to side. I picked up her medical-sized tube of Sensodyne for closer examination.

She had no idea. We used baking soda straight from the Arm & Hammer box. Earliest memory arranges me on a stool while teetering with floss wrapped fingers aiming for the space between each tooth. Daddy stood by with the details of a world without floss.

What could we do without these pieces of pulp which allow us to digest delicious dinners and bare down in resolve? What alerted him to the intense assignment to instruct? Did his grandmother’s choppers give him a permanent scare?

Good work if you can learn it. My father’s daily practice helped him to keep the majority of his toofies until time was up in the eighth decade.

To my sadness, he quit flashing his Hollywood smile quite sometime prior to the end. Enamel does eventually wear off. This is a sordid tidbit of which we are not warned until it begins to happen; one of those unspeakables.

I’ll burst your bubble with a page for the tooth travelogue if you don’t already know: a dark undercoating rises to the surface naturally. Daddy simply opted out of toofie smiles and just continued to brush and floss his God given apparatus.

I love to ponder his smile though – perfectly aligned and dazzling white with a pair of surprisingly deep dimples, a regular topic of attention. He was a joker so there were many opportunities to show the whole thing off. I was a fan.

When I got in high school, I noticed no one mentioned my ever expanding crooked letter teeth. My parents were a mind that braces might be an over extension of intervention. I sat them down and made my case. “Look at Peggy’s new smile,” I said. “And what if crooked is a gateway for Pyria?” I pleaded. Can you imagine a more pitiful plight?

In those days, braces were monster movie affairs – heavy, invasive. They were rubber bands and cuts involved. Still it hurt so good because I longed for a Cybill Shepherd simper. Meanwhile kissing became problematic.

I deeply cared for my orthodontist Dr. John Alden so much so in fact that I delivered my children’s mouths unto his care. He was brilliant, flirty and snarky, but ever the encourager that my smile would become all that I hoped.

I’m uncertain of the medical terminology, but his method of straightening involved an artful approach, a careful tweaking to balance those choppers within the facial structure. The up and coming orthodontists were following a more textbook alignment; a one size fits all course of action.

The end result pursued by Dr. Alden was individual and nuanced. Odd duck here but I’ve always preferred nuanced. Nuance is promotional in the field of enchantments. For that reason I think I’ve drawn the line with dental veneers, still I don’t want to be left behind shimmering ole yeller.

As a stylist once suggested, vintage is not all that after a certain age; you might show up like you don’t know any better. I’ve warned my close friends that I may be a painful reminder before it is over.

To carry on the legacy of dental hygiene that I was given, I proceeded to the sleek office of my next generation dentist with a burning commentary/question: “Pickles, dairy and cheese, black coffee and red wine have done a number on my teeth. What do you recommend?”

Being a young but conservative practitioner he said, “Your teeth are fine, just fine (we all know what that means).”

Noting the squeamish form I took while following up with questions concerning enamel replacement, he offered the alternative goo for an extended toofie spa soak. Reminded of rubber band days, I followed the routine only to be unimpressed with the results. Later I purchased a Water Flosser by Waterpik (should have been included in the Toofie Travelogue), very like the one I operated when I first began the youthful practice of studying myself in the mirror.

These exploits took me down the yellow brick road (no pun) to my Grandmother’s teeth and the dreaded thing she prevented me from acquiring.

I’ve made peace with my best efforts of personal maintenance, baking soda and all. In fact I never miss the chance to beam that toothie smile, faded veneer or no. One day during pre-masked society, I noticed that everyone I encountered was grinning and then it came to me that I started it by unconsciously beaming from ear to ear all reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s words – “All right,” said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.”

It was said that Carroll had a strange disorder and was prone to hallucinations. My kind of people.