1964: First cavity. I am a dirty, dirty girl. I am Goofus to my sister’s Gallant.
1964-Today: Multiple cavities. I will be in my 40s before I find out that some dentists actually give Novocaine for people getting fillings.
1982: Wisdom teeth removed over three visits, at $40 a piece, all I can afford as I have no dental insurance. This means no gas, no sedation. Tooth #1 comes out okay. On second visit, tooth #2 turns out to be “much more complicated than I thought,” according to the dentist, who is splattered with blood by the end of the extraction. On the third visit, I walk in, sit in the chair and burst into tears. They give me a little free gas.
1988: Chain jams on bike; I have split second to decide how I’m going to fall. “Well, I don’t want to break my arm” — I land on my face, knocking out three front teeth, which means a root canal, two bondings and a crown.
1989: Insurance company finally agrees to pay for dental work following bike accident, which it has repeatedly denied on the grounds that it doesn’t cover “cosmetic” procedures.
2000: Crack back molars, which I spit out in my hand at work and show my boss. Full details in “Laura, the Pest,” in the anthology BAD GIRLS.
2002: Root canal because it’s believed there’s an infection beneath repaired molars.
2002: Surgery because the root canal does not fix whatever’s wrong beneath the molars. Very nice oral surgeon says absentmindedly at last visit: “See you soon.” I say: “No offense, but I hope I never see you again as long as I live.”
2003-2008: New dentist keeps warning me that the 1988 repair can’t last forever.
2009: Twenty-one years later, the two bondings and crown are still intact, but I agree to come in and get them fixed, along with a newly discovered crack in a rear molar, which I am convinced is the closest thing I’ll ever get to a pension from the Baltimore Sun. Work is anticipated to take five hours. I’m opting to be sedated.