My periodontist has recommended I endure another gum graft on one of my lower teeth to prevent further recession of the gum.
I have already endured two of these procedures.  I would prefer my teeth were able to stay in my mouth, those that remain, and given I have a full lower jaw of teeth it would be good to keep it so, but the thought of another graft leaves me cold.
Two factors: for one the cost, but that’s not the overriding concern.
The overriding concern is the cut and stitches and having to hold my mouth still for several hours after the procedure; having to avoid hard food for weeks; and on that first day and the next, eating only soft foods, luke warm, to give the graft a chance to take.
It’s almost a miracle to me that a doctor can peel a small portion of skin from the roof of my mouth and then attach it to the section of my gum that is receding just above the root and over time and with care the skin will attach itself to my gum to form new healthy tissue that will then attach to my tooth and stop it from falling out.
I managed to put off the procedure to early next year, during the summer when the weather makes the thought of such assaults on my body less awesome.
It’s hereditary, my sister tells me, a legacy from our father.  His teeth fell out with gum
I would have thought they fell out through neglect.
These were the days when people had their teeth extracted and full dentures inserted as a wedding present.  The days before fluoride.  The days when teeth rotted in people’s mouths
and no one looked askance.
My father never complained of toothache, at least not within my earshot, and so I’m left wondering about the story of his teeth.
I never went near enough to my father to remember this time when his teeth were still his own, if only they dangled precariously from receding roots.  Perhaps they fell out
before my time.  But my father was only thirty-six when I was born, he must still have had his teeth then, or did he leave them behind in Holland?
I grew up hiding my teeth; terrified that someone might notice they needed attention and drag me off to the nearest dentist.  The dentist might then look into my mouth.  And the look on his face…
I dreamed of going into hospital, of sleeping the sleep of the anaesthetised and of waking up with a full set of dentures, and the fantasy of never having to worry about my teeth again.
My dreams did not come true, instead I kept most of my teeth and my worries, and I now have a periodontist to keep them all – teeth and worries – in place.


Damaged goods

‘People blame mothers too much,’ my daughter said the
other day when I was trying to justify some of her troubles on the basis of my
absence when she was little.
‘It’s not fair to always blame the mother.’
In my mind, cause and effect go back to early childhood
and a person’s experience of being parented, but my daughters reckon there’s
more to it than that.
There’s a dog bone in the middle of the room hidden behind
the pattern of the carpet. The dog must have snuck it in while no one was
We impose a no-bones-inside rule out of a sense of
order.  The dog refuses to leave
his bone in a bowl.  Instead he
carries his bone with him to all rooms of the house a child clutches her
comfort blanket in order to create the illusion that he has control of what he
needs given his lack of control over his mother. 
Our dog hoards his bones and hides them and we hurl them
back outside.  If only I could
grind away my worries the way the dog pulverizes his bone.
The dog of my childhood ate his bones outside on the
grass.  One of sisters once fell
and her hand landed on the sharp edge of a bone which went through her wrist
and came out the other end.  She
came into the house wailing and held her hand up to my mother’s horror.  A hospital visit later and all was restored. 
It is one of our many childhood accidents.  One brother ripped a hunk out of his
leg when he fell down a cliff wall and snagged his foot on a tree, another
sister wound up in hospital when someone opened their car door on her
bike.  I nearly drowned and twice I
was skittled by cars.  The list is
If I were my mother I would have gone mad with the worry,
all those children, all those legs and arms and hands and heads, all ready for
damage, all open to accident and death. 
‘We are so lucky,’ my mother says.  ‘Such a healthy family.  No one gets sick.  No cancer.  No drug addiction.’  
tell her this is not true and remind her of her own mother’s death from stomach
cancer, aged 67.  I remind her of
my father’s death of a heart attack through too much smoking and drinking, aged 65.  But my mother shrugs it off, as if alcohol is
to blame, rather like some folks in America defend the presence of guns.  The guns are not the problem, it’s the
people who use them. 
‘This house is the epicenter of worry,’ another daughter
said to me when I was off loading some of my most recent concerns.  She reciprocated by telling me about this dreadful customer she had encountered
at her work, a woman who was unhappy with her purchase – a round shelf
unit.  She had been promised a
brand new one but there were none left so they gave her one from the floor. 
‘It’s damaged’ the woman said, for which my daughter
apologized and offered a refund, but the woman huffed off to think about
it.  Then she rang back to complain
that she had lost her receipt, convinced now that my daughter had kept the
receipt in order to prevent the woman from exchanging her goods. 
My daughter searched everywhere for the receipt which
could not be found, not on the desk in the wastepaper basket nowhere.  The woman rang off with threats of
further action and my daughter caught the contagion of paranoia. 
Then the woman sent an email complaining about the
treatment she had received while acknowledging she had since found her receipt
– ‘human error,’ she wrote, as if to mock my daughter’s original apology for her ‘damaged goods’.