Wednesday, February 25, 2009


When I was a kid I had wonderful teeth. A lot of cavities but they were still beautiful and gave me a great smile. Then, at about 27, I went to Europe with Clare and on the night of our return, drunk, I was in our loftbed, sleeping. I must have sat up to go to the john at some point, but forgetting I was in our loftbed rather than a bed in Europe--Portugal was our last stop--I stepped off the bed and fell to the floor. My head would have been about 9 feet from the bare hardwood as the platform was at 6'. I don't remember the fall but I do remember Clare handing me several teeth in the taxi that took us to Mt. Saini Hospital's emergency room. Turned out I'd fractured my jaw, my cheekbones, broken my nose, but the worst of it was that I'd lost allo the bone along the front upper portion of my mouth: The bone the teeth sit in. The best part was that for some odd reason there was an orthodontist at Mt. Saini when I arrived and she spent several hours reimplanting my teeth and wiring my mouth shut. To keep things in place she made a sort of cement football-player's mouthpiece that I couldn't remove for 6 weeks.
During those 6 weeks Clare was an angel, putting all my food into a blender as I couldn't chew. And after the six weeks were up, all but one of the five teeth that had been knocked out had grown new and deeper roots. So I went and had a Maryland Bridge made for that one (a new and very expensive proceedure at the time, and one that was so exotic that several years later, when I was not living with anyone or dating anyone, a dental hygienist treated me to wonderful intimacy simply on the strength of having that Maryland Bridge).
Unfortunately, during those six weeks of not being able to brush teeth, several otherwise healthy teeth rotted and I wound up needing half-a-dozen crowns. Fortunately, I was making great money as a chef at the time and so was able to pay the $5,000+ bill for it all.
But my teeth were no longer something I thought were good looking and my smile was no longer beautiful. Because of the lack of bone, I had sort of dinasaur teeth that went way up higher into the missing bone area than they had earlier. And then two of them, on the right and left sides of the bridged front tooth, began to discolor. In short, over 10 years time I was smiling while showing very little teeth.
And during the past five years or so I've become so embarrassed about my teeth that I stopped doing television interviews and even disliked having my picture taken.
Worse, a couple of years ago I was sitting in Iquitos, having a piece of wild boar when I felt a splintering sound as I took a bite and instantly knew something was wrong when I began to spit out pieces of teeth. The chef had forgotten to remove the shotgun pellets and in one bite I shattered four crowns, three on the bottom right, and one, very visible one on the upper left.
I truly felt like a freak. No photos with mouth even a little open.
And since I'm not a wealthy man, there was no way to fix it.
Until last month. Last month I was so disgusted with myself that I went to the best orthodontist in Iquitos, Peru and began a $3,000 US dollar repair job. I had the dark teeth bonded a lovely shade of off-white to match the one fake tooth in my mouth, then began work on the crowns. First crown was the upper left. And there was all sorts of other work to do as well: In that first week I spent 20 hours in the chair. In the second week I spent another 10 before saying we'll finish the rest of the crowns when I return to Iquitos in June.
I cannot tell you how different I feel. I can smile again. I've got middle aged man's teeth, and my dimples won't ever be what they were when I was 17, but I can smile again. I can let people take photos. I can laugh out loud, though I'm out of practice. I can beam for Madeleina and not have her ask me if I'm ever going to get my teeth fixed. It's just fantastic. I'm human again!
And because I look in the mirror more often I noticed how freaking fat I'd gotten and have started losing weight. Not enough, but at least the 34 pants are fitting (not perfectly but it beats the hell out of 36s) well enough to close the button. And the extra large shirts are starting to be baggy enough that I've taken to wearing the larges instead.
Why am I sharing this? Not sure. Just wanted to celebrate something cool with you all. And maybe wanted to let a few of you know that if you can't afford the $15,000 for teeth work here in the states, there are some wonderful orthodontists down in Peru where the work will run you $3000. With airfare and hotels and dining at good restaurants you can get it all done for 1/3 the cost of what it would take here. So don't let it stop you. I spent too many years hating my teeth and shunning smiling pointlessly. And I'm glad that those days are gone.


Hummingbird said...

I totally relate to your issues about your teeth, as I have some similar issues. I never considered going outside the States for dental work, but I will investigate it now.

What I am really interested in (as a voyeur, my mind took flight, hahaha)
is the story about the interesting bridge work... :)

Glad you can smile with confidence... glad you are loving yourself enough to change your body to match your soul... though we are on the march of time, our journey as we age could be and should be even wilder, hotter, better, deeper and wiser... blessings on your and your loved ones!


The Grudge said...

Congrats on getting your smile back. Take care Peter, and thank you for sharing.