My teeth are questionable. They are the funniest thing about me because they are always falling the fuck out. I lost my front tooth when I was 22 to the wily beast that is periodontal disease; fun-loving and perhaps most under appreciated side effect of diabetes. When I was younger and reckless, the only long term diabetes side effects I knew about were death, blindness and dialysis (the last one being what I learned from Steel Magnolias!). And I had, as aforementioned, taken quite the liberty that none of those things would ever occur.
When my front tooth was first loose, it was one of those chilling things that I ignored desperately as long as I could. Back then I still kept a very narrow focus on any ailment—I wanted to ignore everything to the most intense degree; keep a savage distance from the reality of anything going wrong. I may have been a tad manic in my approach, for sure. Loose teeth aren’t something that can be ignored too long though. Especially the ones up front that get inserted into the pizza slice first when you go to take the bite. Especially the ones that, when you lose them, make you look and feel like a hayseed dolled up for Halloween with rabid accuracy. & I was living in New York City, for goodness sake! I had a flashy job!
I sucked it up and took my 22-year old self to the dentist. They regarded me with interest—so young and needing dentures! Ha! Miracles of science! My dentist was great though, without too much chastising he got me cleaned up, a mold of my upper teeth made, and had a “flipper” denture prepared that was ready to go once they actually pulled the front tooth, so that there was not even a day I had to be toothless in public. Vanity aside, this was a revelation. My flipper was basically a retainer with a front tooth in it. Very sensible design, although I have always been the kind of person with a penchant for distractedly flicking retainers up and down without thinking about it—I had to train myself not to take this habit on the road as it was now my tooth popping up and down and that did not support the allusion of youthful health and wellness that I was trying to achieve. I was reminded of the retainer I lost in Lake Huron when I was 9 after getting braces off. A simple flip and it popped right out of my mouth into the dark water never to be seen again. I had to knock that off now.
The focus on better health sprung from this experience did not last. I did manage to lower my A1-C somewhat, but soon enough it was close to a double digit nightmare again. Nevertheless I moved, got married, put off going to the doctor and started drinking regularly. My life as a diabetic has really been a constant balance of <bare minimum effort to maintain it> combined with <pretending it isn’t there at all>.
But zero effort tends to yield limited success. Five years later I lost another tooth on the top. Living in Colorado then, I went to see a new dentist who made me a second flipper, this time with two teeth on it. Things were serious, but I was still living on the edge—I can beat this! I can outlast diabetes and all its stupid side effects! My A1-C at the time of this second round of tooth pulling was 8.1. The focus on better health sprung from this experience lasted considerably longer than the last one. I started very slowly to begin pulling myself together. And literally there was some real pulling that needed attention. I was spread out across a vast self-deception that had morphed into apathy and somewhat alcoholic tendencies. A banner mix all and all. But I finally started to see beyond the day-to-day survival habits I had carved out for myself. I realized that free spirit sensibilities shouldn’t stop you from seeing the bigger picture. Though it might be bleak, it may also help you reconstruct a better path forward. I can be care-free, but not a moron.
This is all on my mind because I'm currently getting root planing done again by a very handsome periodontist here in California, and I realize that again, I have to put all-systems-go energy into maintaining my best self. I can't be the pretty girl at parties who takes her teeth out for kicks anymore. What is it they say; loose teeth, loose lady? No, I guess no one really says that anywhere. I made that up.
I am a grown up, goddammit! Ha! Here's to 2012.