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Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

My 'Cheers' is the dentist's office, where everybody knows my name

By Sarah Reale

September 26, 2006 | When I was in sixth grade I got my first root canal. I walked out of the dentist and my mom picked me up in our new forest green Dodge Durango. I jumped in the front seat and the fresh scent of a new car blew across my face. I was still numb; my bottom lip felt like it had enlarged 100 times. I kept opening the sun flap mirror on the car to make sure it wasn't swollen, To my surprise my lip wasn't swollen; it just felt like it.

My mom dug into her purse and handed me two Advil and drove me back to school.

When most people get a root canal it is a major event. Not for me, and not for my family. My mom blames my suffering on when I was a child I would hide the fluoride pills when she would give them to me every night. I always rebut this fact and change the subject to a frequent "can you believe Utahns didn't want fluoride in their water" argument.

The truth is, it is genetics. There is no pill or toothpaste that could have stopped four of my front teeth from never growing in. The dentist frequently compares my teeth to chalk, and my file at in his office is so large it has its own shelf.

Today, when you look at my smile it looks great. It hasn't always been that way. After I had my braces for four years I was the only 8th grader that still had baby teeth. It wasn't by choice, it was just that nothing had ever grown in and pushed the baby teeth out. The dentist did some work and made them look presentable, and lucky for me my friends loved me for who I am, not my teeth.

Last summer at a cute corner café in downtown San Francisco with my best friend I bit into a tasty croissant, felt a crack, looked at her and started bawling. I would finish the trip with a gap the size of Texas in the front of my smile.

It was just downhill from there. I would get a retainer with teeth on it that was extra fun during Halloween and white trash parties because I could take it out and scare the children. Eventually I would get all of my eight top front teeth capped and looking like new. Then two weeks later I would break a molar.

There is no pain that I can't endure in my mouth, no shot that is too painful. Even though I get butterflies every time I walk through the doors of my dentist's office, it is a place where like Cheers, "everybody knows my name."

I have acquired grandma-like nicknames, and people joke that I will have dentures before I am 30. My mom likes to say, and I have heard it more than once when I call to complain about my teeth that, "It could be worse, some people are born blind, or without limbs, you should be grateful it is only teeth."


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