Relay: My Spark Was Bigger Than My Bite

I believe the condition of your teeth is a genetic trait, which didn’t bode well for me

    They say as a woman ages the first thing to go is her body. With me, though, it was my teeth; the body went second. For the past few years my teeth have been breaking down and falling out. But my smile, and it’s a big one, has been beautifully restored thanks to my new dentist in Southampton. I’ll be offering my thanks to him tomorrow when I chomp down on that traditional turkey dinner, celery and all.

    Except for the fact that I’m white and not as funny, I was beginning to look like Moms Mabley, the comedian who used her toothless smile as part of her act. My smile has a life of its own. Under the worst circumstances my teeth would just burst forth and make their presence known, sometimes in a very inappropriate manner.

    I believe the condition of your teeth is a genetic trait, which didn’t bode well for me. Both my grandmothers, grandfather, my aunt, and some cousins all had false teeth. Mind you, my new teeth are not false; they’ve been restored. If my choice was to get false teeth I think I would have chosen to look more like Moms. My grandfather used to make us kids laugh like crazy when he took his teeth out and made jokes or chased us around chomping his toothless gums. But it was really creepy going into my grandparents’ bathroom and seeing their teeth in a jar. I tried to avoid looking at them for fear that they’d start chatting away with me while I was doing my business.

    When we were younger, my sister and I were the only ones who had to drink milk at the beach to protect our teeth, according to our mother. While everyone else was sipping bubbly soda, we were spitting out warm milk into the salty water. We’re probably the cause of the polluted water in the Long Island Sound off City Island in the Bronx where we grew up.

    It’s odd that our teeth are so troublesome. My mother was very conscious of taking us to our dentist, who lived over an hour away from us and practiced from his home office in a beautiful area of Westchester County. He was a nice man but a torturer. Even though we let her know how much he hurt us and how much we hated him for that, she still piled us into the car for our monthly (sometimes weekly) trips to the good ol’ torturer.

    Putting it in perspective, I think maybe she had a crush on him. While we were shaking with fear in the examination room, she was probably flashing some leg to him in the waiting room. And she was a professional dancer so she had good legs. My mother’s legs and God knows what else probably distracted him while he was working on us. She was a flirt, my Mom. That’s the only reason I can think of for the pain this nice man inflicted on us adorable little children.

    Because of his painful treatments, we resisted going to the dentist in our adult years and of course we’re paying for it now, literally. No matter how expensive your clothes or how beautiful you might be, if you have bad teeth, nothing else matters. But the beauty here is that I’ve found a fairly young and very advanced dentist who does it all — root canals, extractions — and except for the initial numbing injections, the work was pain-free.

    I got very good at smiling with my mouth closed because I was so embarrassed when my teeth started going. But that was really hard because I do have a big smile and I can’t always control it. I came up with all kinds of tactics to hide my teeth, including wrapping my scarves higher on my neck to cover my mouth in case I met someone I had to talk to. But no more. I’m giddy with my restored teeth. And the timing is perfect as Thanksgiving is a time to spend with others. I’ll not only be smiling, I’ll be drinking bubby soda. Hell, it’s a holiday, I might even be drinking a bubbly beer and eating a crusty wing, my favorite part of the turkey!

    Janis Hewitt is a senior writer for The Star.