THE LONG VIEW: Loss of No. 8 tooth takes the bite out of holiday eating

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Pat Grimes New pic.jpg
Pat Grimes, the Long View columnist

Well, Number Eight is gone for good. For those unfamiliar with the Universal Numbering System of dentistry, this means the top front tooth on the right side of my jaw is no longer in my head.

Well, Number Eight is gone for good. For those unfamiliar with the Universal Numbering System of dentistry, this means the top front tooth on the right side of my jaw is no longer in my head.

Regular readers will recall this is the incisor that loosened and dropped out almost a year ago. Actually, only the porcelain crown and the post to which it was attached made a break for freedom; Number Eight was the site of my first root canal decades ago. To recap that episode: unable to determine the reason why it happened, the professionals caring for my pearly whites cemented Eight back into place and hoped for the best.

At a recent cleaning, however, the exam led to suspicion of a fractured root, the same thing that was suspected in Eight’s earlier escape. A full x-ray portraiture session confirmed this lamentable hunch. The root had to be pulled to make way, eventually, for an implant.

Surprisingly, the extraction gave little discomfort, during or after the procedure. What was unforeseen was how losing this eyetooth would alter my life.

Had I thought it over, the changes I’ve been going through would have been expected. After all, I still have 31 other fangs, so how much difference could one make?

My appearance has changed little thanks to an appliance fitting nearly-invisibly over my top teeth with a perfectly matched fake super-glued in the empty space. But most other issues regarding my mouth are decidedly different.

That clever gizmo with the falsie can’t be worn while eating. Thus, before sitting down to table, I pop it out and stash it in a little case. In the first week since this uprooting, I repeatedly tried to chomp down on something before remembering the need to stow the appliance.

What is more, the sizable wound left by Number Eight’s departure demands I carefully choose my sustenance. Mealtime is currently an exercise in “what soft foods will we eat today?”

While the void in my jawbone heals, I must avoid forcing foreign matter into the abyss. As such, crispy-crunchy cuisine gives way to fluffier fare. Already I am weary of bananas, eggs, soup, yogurt, avocado, mashed potatoes, and the like, and long for a big bite of familiar foodstuffs. How I envy those carefree diners who may at their whim chomp down on a sandwich.

This temporary lifestyle alteration offers a glimpse into what countless folks endure for a lifetime. I now know a little of how it feels to have a food allergy or other condition requiring judicious eating, and I empathize greatly with those who have lost a few chompers along the way.

Ultimately, my current situation is short-lived and not so awful. It’s a good excuse to limit my caloric intake this holiday season, and if my toughest health problems are dental, there’s little to complain about.

Still, the sugarplums dancing in my dreams this year will assuredly be replaced by apples, burgers, pizza slices, and corn-on-the-cob. Guess all I want for Christmas is all my front teeth.

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at grimespat19@gmail.com

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