My smile is a Yankee/Confederate battleground
The first shot was fired by the South — I’m not talking about Fort Sumter; I’m talking about my mouth. Normally, I’m the one that shoots my own mouth off, but I specifically blame the South for firing the first shot in what has become a dental battle, perhaps the first dental battle between the states. However, as this blog entry will attest, it was a war of Northern Aggression from that point onward.
My tooth fell out when I was chewing on something fried. I refuse to blame a history of poor dental hygiene for my tooth’s demise. I blame the hash browns and the mysterious atmosphere that makes people have buck teeth or gap teeth in hick towns in the American heartland.
It didn’t happen at Waffle House, but it might have — Kathy Griffin called Waffle House a “tooth-optional restaurant” in one of her stand-up routines. I love Waffle House, and I must say, one does see a few grins with gaps in them there.
My friend, Lauretta Hannon, author of The Cracker Queen told me, “The initiation is complete: you are now officially a Cracker Queen.”
What is it about the gravitational pull below the Mason-Dixon Line that makes women’s teeth fall out with more frequency? Why was the Earth demanding I return my teeth to her? Won’t my bones be powdered in a grave some day? Can’t the Earth wait until then?
I found my way to Dr. Steve Wooten, DDS, of Oxford Mississippi. His website included a variety of scary grimace “before” pictures and movie-star smile “after” pictures, and nothing about him in his photo looked truly menacing, even if I squinted and imagined him armed with a tiny pick and a mirrored rod. Although, because of the photo’s background — a bunch of trees, I wondered if Mississippi dental work was generally performed outside:
He looks harmless, but look at the photo background -- is his dental practice outside?
Dr. Wooten and his staff — Sam, a very pretty receptionist with a sweet, high voice, and Valerie, his dental hygienist, who is also quite sweet and gracious, in fact, work indoors, not outdoors, in a brightly lit office not far from the University of Missisippi. Everyone there is sweet as pie, except that pie might cause cavities, which they, of course, try to prevent. Dr. Wooten managed to successfully reattach my tooth to itself using a technique rather more sophisticated than the one that I used in second grade when I glued macaroni bits onto a piece of construction paper. I would recommend him and his practice to anyone.
Even though I am a big scaredy cat when it comes to dentistry — I’m always afraid of getting hurt, and I’m like my dog Oscar, who never likes it when somebody sticks a finger in his mouth that he can’t bite on with impunity — Sam, Valerie, and Dr. Wooten were kind, gentle, patient, and many of the other things that it says to do in 1 Corinthians 13 when someone has a dental appointment.
Very reasonably, as Dr. Wooten is, in fact, a reasonable man, he wanted to see my old X-rays, which were taken in a dental practice in Brooklyn.
The people there, as I did indeed remember, were nowhere as sweet as Valerie and Sam. If I imagine Valerie and Sam wearing other clothes than scrubs, I imagine them wearing dresses, headed off to church with family members. The receptionist and the hygienist of my Brooklyn dental office, if I imagine them out of scrubs, they were more like a pair of tag-team wrestlers — “Lady Destruction” and “The Scowler,” perhaps, wearing studded masks.
I remember fear walking into the office of my dentist in Brooklyn. She herself was nice enough, but perhaps I found her more so in contrast to her support staff, who poked me with sharp tools and told me to bite down on things that cut my gums while I wore a lead apron. I remember drooling and bleeding, but other details are foggy.
Sam, back in Mississippi, who does not look like she makes anybody bleed, very appropriately called my dental office in Brooklyn, where she said to me, very politely and respectfully about my homeland, that she just “wasn’t quite sure” she had understood them or that they could understand her Southern drawl.
In the end, they told her they weren’t going to send my x-rays and slammed the phone down on her. The Scowler could hear, surely, the meekness and deference in Sam’s voice, and in Brooklyn, nobody gets my x-rays, apparently, unless they are willing to attempt several holds in the ring. If the Scowler slaps the mat, then another office can see my bicuspids from the inside out.
Everything, in fact, in Brooklyn, is more like tag-team wrestling than it is here. People and their stuff get shuffled around, and while many people are lovely in Brooklyn, they rarely feel they have the time to acknowledge the humanity of a stranger or stop to smell the roses. Smelling the coffee is more like it, and the stronger the better, because the pace is break-neck. “The break-neck,” as I recall, was one of the holds my Brooklyn dentist used on me to get to my back molars.
Dr. Wooten looked at my current X-rays, the ones he took. He pointed on the screen in his office to a back molar of mine and shook his head. I asked him if I had been the victim of dimestore dentistry. He told me that he could think of a word to call what he saw, but he didn’t know me well enough to say it to me, not to mention I’m a lady, and not Lady Destruction, either.
Was I the victim of dental abuse?
The good news: I know the boss of Lady Destruction and The Scowler, and because they fear the wrath of upper management, I’m sure Dr. Wooten will get to look at my teeth from back in the day, for what it’s worth to him.
The bad news: Clearly, The War Between the States is still ongoing. The University of Mississippi ordered a giant telescope from up North right before hostilities broke out, and so it was never delivered, and they have an observatory without a tool for observation to this day on campus. Down the street, my new dentist, Dr. Wooten, is waiting for delivery of diagnostic imaging — and today, no train car is required, only a digital image and an e-mail click, and yet I sit here, mouth agape, not drooling, but ready to spit.
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