My periodontist has recommended I endure another gum graft on one of my lower teeth to prevent further recession of the gum.
I have already endured two of these procedures. I would prefer my teeth were able to stay in my mouth, those that remain, and given I have a full lower jaw of teeth it would be good to keep it so, but the thought of another graft leaves me cold.
Two factors: for one the cost, but that’s not the overriding concern.
The overriding concern is the cut and stitches and having to hold my mouth still for several hours after the procedure; having to avoid hard food for weeks; and on that first day and the next, eating only soft foods, luke warm, to give the graft a chance to take.
It’s almost a miracle to me that a doctor can peel a small portion of skin from the roof of my mouth and then attach it to the section of my gum that is receding just above the root and over time and with care the skin will attach itself to my gum to form new healthy tissue that will then attach to my tooth and stop it from falling out.
I managed to put off the procedure to early next year, during the summer when the weather makes the thought of such assaults on my body less awesome.
It’s hereditary, my sister tells me, a legacy from our father. His teeth fell out with gum disease.
I would have thought they fell out through neglect.
These were the days when people had their teeth extracted and full dentures inserted as a wedding present. The days before fluoride. The days when teeth rotted in people’s mouths and no one looked askance.
My father never complained of toothache, at least not within my earshot, and so I’m left wondering about the story of his teeth.
I never went near enough to my father to remember this time when his teeth were still his own, if only they dangled precariously from receding roots. Perhaps they fell out before my time. But my father was only thirty-six when I was born, he must still have had his teeth then, or did he leave them behind in Holland?
I grew up hiding my teeth; terrified that someone might notice they needed attention and drag me off to the nearest dentist. The dentist might then look into my mouth. And the look on his face…
I dreamed of going into hospital, of sleeping the sleep of the anesthetised and of waking up with a full set of dentures, and the fantasy of never having to worry about my teeth again.
My dreams did not come true, instead I kept most of my teeth and my worries, and I now have a periodontist to keep them all - teeth and worries - in place.