Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thai Tooth Tales

Like it or not, teeth are tied up with identity. If your teeth are bad, as mine are, it goes without saying your identity will be a bit wobbly and loss, shame and despair all chisel into the roots of your individuality. Despite the mantra “I am not my teeth” which I fashioned during my last tooth casualty, and which I’ve repeated ad nauseum, ego continues to mock me. The nerve! It occurs to me that my life-long obsession with mascara has had a purpose. It’s taken the focus off my mouth. In spite of all the fault lines occurring in my cavity and a genetically-enhanced intense disposition, I’m basically happy, and happy people smile, right? Sadly, a cracked, broken and decaying smile is more like a frown, or worse, verbal abuse. You just can’t win.

Buttermilk’s OK on your walls, it has a calming effect, but as far as a tooth colour, it would seem there’s a universal conspiracy out there that renders it somewhat hip or cool to have perfectly formed nice white teeth. Bollocks! We don’t all have blue eyes, straight noses and
curly hair so what’s with this obsession with canine conformity. As Helen Garner once said, in another time and place the lines on a woman’s face would be prized as her life map. So it is with tooth colour. Mine were never white, nor were my mother’s, or her mother’s.

But the question of self-esteem remains. Sepia teeth or not, mine are peri-poly-diabolically-done-in! Thanks to a few modest dollars left to me by my mum following her death last year, and after an outrageous quote of $13,000 to improve my confidence, I’ve succumbed to the great tooth rot, sorry trot, to Asia. So enamelled, ah, enamoured was I with the website promoting the dentist that had been recommended to me by three separate friends, complete with colourful state-of-the-art looking equipment, comprehensive listings of treatments and cost, and perfect Queen’s English, the choice was locked in.

So here I am in Thailand where a colossal amount of crown work is under way. I’ve sat, or rather laid in the high-tech dental chair for 8 hours. That’s a lot of anaesthetic but much more scraping, drilling, hacking, chipping, sawing, picking and prodding. I feel like a working mine! Thank Christ for the Arnica. The positive effects are I’ve become intimate with the ears, and porcelain-like skin of my pre-pubescent looking dental experts. How did I get so old? Despite having to constantly and consciously remind myself to relax, their touch is positively Zen. It’s a real pity muscles have a memory of their own that say contract each time an instrument comes within a foot of my face.

But virtually half the way through my dental work I’m now facing what can only be described as reverse identity shock. I want my old mouth back. Several of the teeth that have been drilled back are now wearing, ah, plastic jackets that are more or less the shape of teeth but immeasurably whiter, acutely more prominent and astonishingly unattractive. I feel like Mr Ed! Needless to say, I’m spending an inordinate amount of time, between visits, in my guesthouse. I’m an oh-so-vain freak show!

I loved my buttermilk teeth and should I come out of this experience with white teeth, I’ll, I’ll … sue.

To be continued ….