However, every so often I've had this dialogue in my head which has gone something like this:
- "You really should see a dentist."
- "Why? There's nothing wrong with my teeth except cosmetic stuff."
- "You don't know that. There might be LURKING HORRORS."
- "If they've not produced any symptoms in the last 4 years, they can't be that bad."
- "They might be SILENT LURKING HORRORS that produce no symptoms for years and then suddenly ALL YOUR TEETH FALL OUT!"
- "Dude, if you're my subconscious, why do you keep talking in capital letters? Aren't you supposed to be the strong silent type?"
- "LURKING HORRORS! TEETH FALL OUT! CRACKY BROKEN TEETH LIKE POTTERY!"
Now, okay, obviously a dentist knows more about teeth than I do. But I think I'd notice if there was something wrong with my teeth. I'd get pain, or bleeding gums, or something, surely? And over the past year or two I've had a couple of twinges where my wisdom teeth should be, but they've gone away again fairly quickly; I've had the occasional bit of bleeding from my gums, but I just brush more carefully for a bit and they get better. It's no big deal. It's the dental equivalent of having a cough and cold every now and then; I wouldn't go to the doctor for that sort of thing unless it kept happening all year round, or went on for an unusually long time.
However, I decided I really should get my teeth checked out, and if they were fine I'd only have to get them looked at once a year or so. Now if life really was a series of moral tales to frighten children -- or if, perhaps, Going To The Dentist Every Six Months was as important as people say it is -- then the outcome of this story would be that my dentist-evasion had allowed LURKING HORRORS to take root in my mouth, horrors which could have been fixed if only I'd seen a dentist sooner, but which would now leave them with no alternative but to take all my teeth out and replace them with POTTERY TEETH. So after all that, it's simultaneously reassuring and slightly disappointing to find that, as I thought, my teeth are basically okay, & I should keep brushing them. (It costs more like 30 quid a time now for the privilege of being told that, though.)
The visit to the dentist did, however, give me a chance to investigate the cosmetic dentistry that I've been considering on and off for several years. No, not the titanium fangs (sigh), but the more practical and realistic possibility of fixing my half-size tooth, as agonised about on LiveJournal a couple of years ago. Now the good news is, they wouldn't recommend trying to bring the existing tooth down to the level it should be at, as that would involve fixed braces and EXTREME PAIN and stuff, and would be a bit pointless when instead they can just put a "veneer" on the existing tooth. The even better news is, I could get the veneer done on the NHS, so I'd hardly have to sell any of my internal organs on eBay to afford it: a standard one-colour veneer costs £400. "One-colour?" I hear you saying. "Does this mean you can get your teeth capped in funky colours?" Sadly, no, and this is where the bad news starts to come in: "one-colour" means that the veneer I can get done on the NHS will be as white as a Daz advert, and will therefore look completely ridiculous next to the rest of my motley molars. If I want the cap to be designed to match the rest of my teeth, it'll have to be done privately, and it'll cost "a lot more".
So I asked if it was possible to make all my teeth a bit whiter so that the cap wouldn't look so out of place. The problem is, it's not that my teeth are discoloured (e.g. by COKE or COFFEE or all the other discolouring things I have consumed in great quantities) but that they've got some kind of imperfections inside: so smokers' toothpaste won't cut it. To get them whiter I'd have to actually get them bleached, which means two possible options:
1. A "home bleaching kit" which would involve filling a dental plate with bleaching solution and soaking my teeth in it for half an hour every day (or every other day, or however often I can be bothered) for a total of about 14 days. There may be some "sensitivity" to the bleaching solution, which based on my experience of "sensitivity" in the context of dentistry probably means EXTREME PAIN. This kit costs £400.
2. A "power-bleaching session" which involves sitting for an hour under a bright light with bleaching stuff on my teeth. Now presumably this has the advantage that if there is "sensitivity" you can scream for a dentist, rather than agonising at home about whether you've done it wrong and whether your mouth is going to be a mass of chemical burns; also, while A WHOLE HOUR with stuff on my teeth sounds like boredom-on-toast, apparently you can just watch TV while the goo is doing its bleachy thing, and frankly it'd probably be easier to fit in one hour of full-on bleach-o-rama than the half-hour EVERY FUCKING DAY that the home kit would involve. Bad news is, though, the power-bleaching costs £600.
Obviously if I'm going to do either of these things I have to do it before getting the veneer fitted on the short tooth; which is a bit annoying, because really I just want the fucking gap in my teeth fixed so I don't look so much like a nine-year-old when I smile. But it would be stupid to pay all that money for the veneer if it's still going to stick out like a sore, er, tooth; and I'm buggered if I'm going to pay through the nose for the privilege of getting a veneer specially designed to look as crap as the rest of my teeth.
The problem is, I have some issues with getting this sort of cosmetic work done at all. My reservations are, in no particular order:
1. It shouldn't matter, to me or to other people, if my teeth are crooked or gappy or whatever. My personality (such as it is) should be the thing that people respond to; it should matter more that I love and am loved (and I do, and I am) than that I look hideous when I smile.
2. Following on from the first point, I feel as though by getting these treatments done I'd be bowing to pressures from society to conform to the popular image of perfection. (Insert a paragraph of mooing about the beauty myth here, if you like.)
3. There have to be better, more worthwhile, or even just more interesting ways to spend £800 than on the sort of treatments for my teeth that I'd scorn for my hair. (Yes, there are probably people who would spend 800 quid on hair-dye and extensions, and that's their choice, etc., but I reserve the right to think they're completely crackers.) I'm supposed to be saving every penny I can, to pay sion_a back the thousands of pounds I owe him in rent; how can I justify spending most of a month's salary on pure vanity?
4. I suspect I'll still be ugly even with the teeth fixed. (I really don't want two hundred dutiful comments saying "You're not ugly" -- it's all subjective, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I'm talking about my opinion, and I think I look frightful.) So is there any point in spending all that money to be fractionally-less-ugly? Surely it's like picking one flea off a dog?
5. Following on from point 4: a lurking fear that True Beauty Comes From Within, as all the fairytales tell us; and that therefore it wouldn't matter if I got my teeth fixed, lost weight, got my hair dyed and styled professionally, had manicures and pedicures, spent an hour on my moisturising and makeup routine every morning, got my legs and bikini line waxed, had laser eye surgery so I didn't have to wear glasses, and even had breast implants so that my horrible saggy tits looked pert and perfect ... because I'd still be ugly inside. And if we're dealing in fairytales, well, I've already got my Prince Charming, so it shouldn't matter if I'm always going to be more of a toad than a princess ... but part of me still wishes I was pretty.
And to cap it all (no pun intended) I'm still ill. Would somebody like to tell me why my body thinks that a good way of getting rid of an infection is to make me cough until I retch and until my throat feels as though it's been scrubbed with wire wool? I've had this since the weekend and it just seems to be mutating -- first a scratchy cough, then a chesty cough, now a throat-tearing cough that makes my head ache and a blocked nose and itchy inner ears -- and it appears to be utterly immune to sleep, aspirin, paracetamol, nurofen, decongestants, olbas oil, echinacea, and Bovril. Man, nothing can resist the power of Bovril! Fear this viral horror!
Some days I wish I could just hibernate.