Did you know that dentures were made by the Etruscans way back in 700 B.C.? Human and animal teeth were used and (George Washington's wooden choppers notwithstanding) continued to be so-fashioned until the mid-19th century. At least, that's what a quick check of Wikipedia tells me.
Dentures have come a long way since then; in most cases, it's hard to tell them from natural teeth. Even so, they continue to be fodder for ageist cartoons, one-liners and late-night comedians - as they have been for as long as I can remember.
Now it is my turn for a denture. Bad teeth run in the family. Both my parents had dentures before age 40, and I don't think my childhood dentist helped me much. He didn't believe in novacaine, so I learned early to fear visits to Dr. Rosenthal. If you were a good little patient and didn't scream too much, he gave you a package of Jujubes on your way out; intentionally ensuring future income, do you think?
In a recurring nightmare going back to childhood – usually just before and after dentist visits – all my teeth fall out of my mouth into my hand. No pain is involved, nor blood; just all those teeth, to my horror, loosely piled in my cupped hand.
The dream has been prophetic. I already have a partial bridge and for the past few months, my upper teeth have been wandering around leaving a gap or two where there shouldn't be any. Now, there is no saving them and this week, molds were made for the temporary denture. All remaining teeth will be extracted in a week or ten days.
I'm a practical sort who doesn't spend a lot of time lamenting what can't be changed (although I'm damned sure not happy about the thousands of dollars this is costing). But there are questions that tick at the mind during the process of preparing for the dentures: Will they fit well? Will I be able to eat everything I like? Will they look natural? Not to mention that dentures are generally a strong signal that time is getting short, and I do feel a frisson of the eternal attached to this new implement I'll be wearing for the rest of my life - whatever length it will be.
There is also an annoyance factor. I've always believed one's body ought to toot along on it own through the years until it wears out and you die. I am grateful that, with few and short-lived exceptions, that has been true for me, but it has not left me with a lot of tolerance for excess maintenance. There's not much to do with natural teeth except regular brushings and checkups. Dentures will undoubtedly require more attention and things will go wrong and...
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Claire Jean: What I Didn't Know