By Herman Sillas
As a youth, I hated to visit the dentist. In fact, I have never met anyone who said they love to visit dentists … or attorneys for that matter. But my teeth demand I see a dentist.
That got me to thinking about teeth and their uniqueness.
First of all, we’re born without any. The arrival of the first tooth becomes a big event! Parents rejoice at their child’s first tooth appearance and announce it to all who will listen. Then comes the teething process and crying. Parents try all kinds of remedies to bring peace and quiet to the home. Eventually, teething ends and the child has a mouth filled with teeth. Children must brush them twice a day.
In spite of this ritual, the first set of teeth starts to fall out, one by one. This is not done without notice, oh no. We make a big deal out of it. The child saves the tooth to place it under his or her pillow before going to sleep. We tell our children the tooth fairy will arrive when they are sleeping. If the tooth is reusable, the fairy will take the tooth and leave money in exchange.
In our household, the tooth fairy didn’t always make it the first night. It forgot. I told our children, not to worry; sometimes the tooth fairy had so many teeth that the fairy didn’t have time to get theirs. My children never lost faith in the tooth fairy’s arrival. It always did.
Eventually, all baby teeth are replaced with permanent teeth. Some will last for a life time; some won’t. Some arrive in the right place and fit nicely with their teeth neighbors; some don’t, and mine didn’t.
Every day the broadcast media personnel have smiling faces with sparkling-white, properly placed teeth. I was ashamed of my teeth, which meant I didn’t smile that much. My poor parents weren’t able to pay for braces until I was in college. I was self-conscious about them. None of the other students had braces. They had naturally straight teeth or had them already straightened out. I had a mouth full of braces with two hidden tiny rubber bands. Each band was attached to a little hook in the back of the brace on a front tooth and to a tiny hook on a brace of a back tooth on the same side of my mouth. The unseen stretched rubber bands maintained constant pressure pulling back the two front teeth to line them up properly.
One day a group of us was seated on the grass at UCLA eating lunch. My rubber bands were in my mouth as I chewed my sandwich and spoke. Suddenly, one of my rubber bands shot out of my mouth like a sling shot and hit the listening female student on her cheek. She brushed it where my band had hit her, but didn’t see what hit her. The tiny rubber band lay on the grass beside her, but she never saw it. I continued talking as if nothing had happened. Thereafter, I made sure to take out the rubber bands whenever I ate. By the time I enrolled in law school, my teeth were lined up properly and shiny. I could smile and show off my teeth like everyone else.
Sixty years later I still have most of my teeth, but they need work. Paul Reischl, my dentist will work on them. At my age, I now appreciate dentists. They have to look into open mouths all day and come back the next day to do the same thing. The other thing I notice is that dentists don’t have clumsy hands. I’m sure Paul will save my teeth. See, I told him the tooth fairy doesn’t pay for old ones. That’s the view from the pier.
Herman Sillas can be found most early Saturday mornings fishing on the San Clemente Pier. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org