The other evening, I accidentally discovered a new link to my inner child. I lost my front tooth. Or, as my dentist exclaimed, “My dear, you have fractured your incisor.” Call it what you will, I now have a gaping space in my mouth that is aligned with my left nostril, and completely visible when I talk, laugh, smile or eat. None of which I had ever considered giving up, particularly the last one.
Rediscovering one’s inner child is thought to be very therapeutic. But this path I do not recommend. My speech pattern has regressed to that of a lisping five-year-old, only a lot less adorable. And currently, biting into a bagel is simply out of the question.
Why this unfortunate incident occurred points to yet another aspect of my inner child. I was attempting to eat a fudgesicle.
Remember fudgesicles? They were a dessert of choice long before there was such a thing as Hagen Daaz, the ice cream with the fake Dutch name that was created in the Bronx and first sold in Brooklyn, or Ben and Jerry’s, or all those fancy gelati now available in the freezer case of your local supermarket.
As a kid, the fudgesicle – a chocolate spinoff of the popsicle – along with the creamsicle, were among my favorite treats. In those days I didn’t worry about calories or sugar content. Now the fudgesicles I purchase are artificially sweetened mere shadows of their former selves.
Nevertheless, after dinner, I still look forward to my nostalgic goody. On the night in question, however, my first bite resulted in disaster.
Granted, fudgesicles are frozen. But not quite as frozen as, let’s say, an ice cube or a forgotten steak that’s been sitting in the back of the freezer since last summer’s barbecue. Having bit into numerous fudgesicles in the recent past, I hardly expected to pull back from this one with a loose tooth!
Fortunately, I made it to the dentist before the tooth actually deserted me. He looked at me, shook his head, laid a lead collar around my neck and proceeded to take an x-ray. A few moments later he walked back into the room.
“I have bad news and worse news,” he stated, “which would you like first.” “Let me have the bad news first,” I replied, “then we can build up to the other. I’ve always been a big fan of crescendos.”
“Well, I thought we could get away with a crown,” he declared. “But the tooth is too far gone for that.”
“And the worse news?”
“I will have to extract the tooth”
“And then?” I queried.
“You are going to need an implant.”
And that was the moment the cymbals crashed!
Now implants aren’t so bad, although they do make a considerable dent in one’s bank account. I’m a proud owner of several already. But due to its location, this one was horrifying. Between the time the implant was inserted and the months it took to heal, I would look like an extra from “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
The answer to this humiliating situation, my dentist explained, was something called a “Flipper.”
“I’ll take two,” I responded with a mixture of panic and relief. He assured me that one would suffice.
So what was left of my front tooth was yanked out, and too crumbled to even consider putting under my pillow. (My inner child still believed in the Tooth Fairy.) And to assuage my dignity, I was presented with “The Flipper.”
This custom-made piece of plastic, on which hangs a replica on my missing tooth, has become my new best frenemy. While it allows me to smile without humiliation, it is about as comfortable as a tongue depressor. Once inserted, it feels like someone has attached a shelf to my upper palate.
If I happen to see you in the near future, and we engage in conversational pleasantries, let me assure you that I am not inebriated. I only sound sloshed due to my friend Flipper, which is giving my poor tongue a very hard time when it comes to producing “s” sounds. As a result, I’m avoiding meeting new people. I’m reluctant to say my name.
Dining is no joy either. I don’t wear the damn thing when I’m home, but since recreational eating is part of the Florida lifestyle, I don’t dare go into a restaurant without my new companion. Perhaps we’ve discovered the Flipper diet!
I do have a choice. I can choose not to wear it at all, and tell people that I’m auditioning for a role in the remake of the movie “Deliverance.” Or, I can toss vanity to the wind, and grin and bear it. Well, maybe not a full grin, perhaps just a closed-mouth little smirk.
Or better yet, there is an option for a temporary tooth to be bonded in place. If that happens I will happily lock Flipper inside its case and banish it to the back of some drawer.
But for now, I will tolerate my annoying device, since going toothless is not a coveted fashion statement. And, most important, I’m sure it will be an asset when I bite into my next fudgesicle.