I’m worried about my teeth.
There’s nothing wrong with them. Not yet, anyway. But I know it’s coming. One day, sooner than I care to think about, my teeth will walk off the job. Management (that would be me) hasn’t addressed their concerns (so I don’t floss. Sue me.). They’ve been chewing, grinding, and gritting for far longer than they ever planned to; all without a single day off. They have no reason to stick around. Unlike my organs, who have to stay on the job to keep me alive, my teeth will feel no guilt when they abandon ship.
I’m worried about how it will happen. The Tooth Exodus, that is. You see, I have a recurring dream where I cough or sneeze into my hand. Then, when I pull my hand away, it’s full of teeth. The whole scenario is rather unsettling. But also unrealistic, so I don’t think it will happen that way. I imagine it will go the same way as much of the aging process has so far. I’ll wake up one day and notice something weird about my teeth. I’ll ignore it until it becomes obvious something needs to be done at which time I’ll whine to all my friends about it, asking them to look at it and see if they think it’s weird, too. Someone will say, “Do you floss? I mean, I’m not judging, I just always wonder if flossing really does matter.” But she will be judging, and it will make me mad, so I will clench my jaw, and POP, there will go the first one. After that, all the other teeth will feel inspired and liberated by their Jerry Maguire-like leader and they, too will start trying to wiggle out of their gummy prison. “You had me at ‘hello.’” Traitors.
Oh, how I’ll fight. I’ll give up soda and hard candy. I’ll buy fancy toothpaste and mouthwash. There will be many dentist visits and many, MANY dollars spent. And yes, ok, fine, I will floss. I will attempt to become a tooth whisperer so I can convince my stupid teeth to just stay put. (I don’t mean that, Teeth. This is all completely hypothetical. I know you are actually extremely intelligent teeth. And so attractive! Could I interest you in some room temperature water?)
One day, my efforts, however noble, will be pointless. Teeth who have lost their neighbors will sacrifice themselves, leaving a gummy void in their absence. There will be civil wars, in which part of a tooth decides it wants out, but the rest of the tooth digs in its heels and chants, “hell, no, we won’t go!” Tooth families will be fractured. There will even be tooth deaths. Some will be forcibly removed from their homes. These will be dark days for my mouth.
Then, one day, someone will mention dentures. I’ll be surprised, maybe a bit offended, but I’ll eventually agree that fake teeth are better than no teeth and I will give up the good fight.
I won’t let the loss keep me down long. You better believe my new teeth will be the fanciest, most realistic, make-Miss-America-jealous teeth on the market. In fact, I will wish I had done it sooner! We will be in love with each other and with life. We will eat ice cream and ride bicycles just like the smiling, active seniors I see in all the denture commercials. Yes, these teeth will leave me, but it will be my decision when and how and into which glass of water. These teeth will not abandon me without notice. They will be ever loyal and not in need of costly maintenance and ego-stroking.
Won’t they? Now that I think about it, I know very little about any of this. My only experience with dentures comes from memories of my grandfather. From time to time, he would catch my eye from his well-worn recliner. Once he had my attention, he’d give me his biggest smile, and using only his mouth and wicked sense of humor, push his entire top row of teeth past his lips and then flip them into a vertical position.
He thought it was hilarious. I thought it was terrifying.
So yeah, I’m worried about my teeth. I’m worried about how and when they’ll leave me. I’m worried I’ll be the first one of my friends to lose one, because no one wants to be the first one to get old. I’m worried about what happens to the teeth when they fall out. Is there a geriatric tooth fairy who leaves prunes and knee-high pantyhose under your pillow? I’m worried I might turn into the kind of person who thinks it’s funny to scare little kids by pulling all my teeth out at once.*
There’s a lot to think about here. You could say I have a lot to chew on. (whomp, whomp)
In the meantime, has anyone seen my floss?
*I guess I finally figured out the meaning behind that recurring dream. Figures. It would be just like my grandfather to continue picking on me from the grave. Good one, Leroy.