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shadows of echoes of memories of songs
Keep our teeth nice and clean
I had an appointment with the dentist this morning for the first time in about 6 years. I'm not frightened of dentists or anything; I'm just lazy and avoidant and disorganised, and I never got round to registering with a dentist in Oxford because I was still seeing the one back home, and then that lapsed when they stopped taking NHS patients, but it didn't seem worth registering with a dentist in Oxford when I knew I was going to move, and then I never got round to registering in Cambridge either ... and frankly my teeth were okay, and given that I was short of money anyway I felt I couldn't really justify spending £25 a time just to be told "Your teeth are okay, keep brushing them" every six months.

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?"

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.

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barrysarll From: barrysarll Date: February 23rd, 2005 11:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Not to be one of the dutiful comments here, but...

You have a cute smile but it does not, so far as I've noticed, make you look like a nine-year old.
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2005 11:58 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Not to be one of the dutiful comments here, but...

Grrrr, "cute". Grrr. I mean, I know you mean well, but, GRRRRR. *bites your ankles*
From: besskeloid Date: February 23rd, 2005 11:54 am (UTC) (Link)
OK, you're ugly.
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2005 11:59 am (UTC) (Link)


Cheers, Bess!
atommickbrane From: atommickbrane Date: February 23rd, 2005 12:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
OK here's what you need to do, paint on a fuckload of wrinkles and apply to go on 10 Years Younger. Then you'll get the dentistry and they'll save money cos instead of the botox etc you can just wash your face, they save money, you save money and get to BE ON TELLY! Hooray!
imc From: imc Date: February 23rd, 2005 01:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Haha, top idea! I remember seeing someone getting a full set of veneers on that while the narrator said something like "these veneers cost £1,200 each" and thinking "isn't it odd that she never thought of getting veneers before…"

One thing I learned from that programme is that the dentist can vary the final colour of the veneer by using different coloured glue. So it surprises me that the NHS says it can only do Daz-white ones.
jvvw From: jvvw Date: February 23rd, 2005 12:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I made an appointment yesterday to go to a dentist for the first time in about three years after pretty much identical reasons for not getting round to going and finally deciding I should. I've got a weird half-sized tooth (actually it's probably bigger than half-sized - dentists have described it as a peg tooth) as well if you've ever noticed, but it doesn't seem worth spending the money to get it fixed.

The dentist who told me six years ago that I'd have no teeth by the age of 30 is wrong though, ha. Unless all my teeth are all going to fall out in the next seven months.
truecatachresis From: truecatachresis Date: February 23rd, 2005 01:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you're not careful, that dentist has got a list of everyone he's said that to, and will be round with a hammer the day before your birthday.
k425 From: k425 Date: February 23rd, 2005 12:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Before you go the horribly expensive home bleaching kit, have you had a look in Boots? They do home tooth whitening kits. In fact, looking at the website, their own-brand kit costs £23.99 and is in a 3for2 offer at the moment...

Additionally, every time I crack my wonky front tooth on a glass or mug when I'm trying to have a drink, I consider yet again whether I want to talk to my dentist about getting it straightened. And run through all the arguments you've listed above. So I know where you're coming from, as they say.

Oh, and it's not necessarily imperfections that make your teeth less than pearly white, genetics plays a part. Hah! Blame your parents' IMPERFECTIONS!
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2005 12:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought the sort of tooth-whitening kits you could get in Boots were to get rid of surface stains, rather than deeper problems? I can't believe they'd be suggesting something that costs 400-600 quid if I could really get the same effect for under 30 quid -- I mean, they said there was no point in me getting my overlapping front teeth straightened because it'd be expensive, & that would've been something they could have easily pushed for on health-ish grounds (making them easier to clean) if they wanted to make money out of me. I dunno, maybe I trust too much in the principle of you-get-what-you-pay-for, but.
nja From: nja Date: February 23rd, 2005 12:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
You don't look hideous when you smile. Um, that's not quite the compliment I intended. You have a lovely smile. I've got a large chip out of one of my front teeth, and occasionally the polyfilla falls off and I walk around for months with a gap, because I'm just lazy and avoidant and disorganised, too.
julietk From: julietk Date: February 23rd, 2005 12:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I keep wondering whether I should have another go at straightening the still-slightly-wonky tooth I have that used to be a half-tooth (well, it emerged from halfway up my gums, most weird). Mostly because it's slightly harder to clean, rather than looking bad. Then I start worrying that my front teeth still stick out too much; then I start feeling guilty that I didn't wear my retainer for long enough; then I give up on the whole thing again. Bah to teeth.

On the subject of gums bleeding, btw: I was told once that that's a sign that you need to floss. Flossing, initially, will also cause bleeding, but keep going (gently) & this clears up & All Is Better. One of my resolutions for this year was to floss my teeth once a day (having been muttering to myself about this for *years*, after a dentist made scary Receding Gum Noises at me), & I actually appear to be keeping it, go me.
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2005 03:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, the dentist didn't mention flossing, but maybe that's because he assumes everybody does it anyway. I do find it horribly icky though -- the way the floss won't go in at first and then jumps down and smashes into the gum and hurts. (I have really close-together teeth so they're very hard to get floss into.)
perdita_fysh From: perdita_fysh Date: February 23rd, 2005 12:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I bought one of the home bleaching kits from ebay for about 6 quid. They are the same as the dentists ones (that is some fucking markup). I never got around to using it though (it is still in the fridge and still before useby date) because the instructions were badly written and confusing, but then I found better instructions somewhere else on the internet and keep meaning to get around to it.

I think I might have the laser whitening done instead though (for convenience) which is 495 at the local spa type place in Manchester. I bet I could find somewhere a bit cheaper than that too with some effort.

Personally, I only reached the realisation that I have 'spare cash' (so to speak) now and could invest in how I look quite recently. And I decided not to give the 'bowing to social pressure to conform' school of thought too much airtime but to just get on with being happy about it.

I hate that my teeth are yellower than my sister's & friends on any photos. I hate that my forehead looks like one of those piebald (is that the right word?) dogs come the summer because of the odd pigmentation in the skin there. I'm fed up with shaving/waxing all the time and I hated always being dependent on glasses/contacts to see.

So, eyes fixed, laser hair removal is halfway through, I've had the consultation and a mere 4 treatments at 75/go will allegedly rectify the pigmentation problem at least in the medium term and shiny teeth are very next on the list. I'd only waste the money on clothes/books/dvd's/something else otherwise - why should I rate my appearance as any less important?
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2005 03:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I bought one of the home bleaching kits from ebay for about 6 quid. They are the same as the dentists ones (that is some fucking markup).

Are you sure they're the same thing? (The stuff they're trying to sell me is from these people, if that helps.)

I'd only waste the money on clothes/books/dvd's/something else otherwise - why should I rate my appearance as any less important?

Thinking about it, I guess I do actually feel it's less of a "waste" to spend money on books/CDs/DVDs which will give me interesting things to think about, & things to talk about with other people -- rather than spending money on my appearance, which hopefully won't be a topic for conversation at all and certainly won't make me think anything more interesting.

Also, the money I spend on clothes/books/DVDs is a totally different order of magnitude -- I tend to buy all those things from charity shops. I made new years' resolutions not to buy any more clothes until May, not to buy any CDs for more than £4.99 for the same time-period, and not to buy any more books until I'd got rid of some of the ones I meant to sell. I can justify spending a little bit of my "spare cash" on things that make me happier and keep me thinking, but I really don't have the money to spend hundreds of pounds on something that's basically useless.
bjh21 From: bjh21 Date: February 23rd, 2005 01:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's not fair. When I fail to go to the dentist for just one year, there are invariably hordes of lurking horrors waiting to get me.

As far as the veneer goes, in your situation I would be (and have been) worried about going from looking ugly to looking ugly and vain, which is much worse.
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2005 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think I'm in any danger of really being vain. I hope not. Maybe it's a kind of vanity to think I'm not vain, though. In which case I can't win.

Sometimes I just hate everything about myself.
truecatachresis From: truecatachresis Date: February 23rd, 2005 01:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, I've not been to the dentist since 1995. Perhaps I ought to book an appointment...
imc From: imc Date: February 23rd, 2005 01:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
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?

I had to have a tooth out not long before Christmas 2002 (only a couple of days before my dad's 60th birthday party) because I broke it while eating a sandwich. It broke because it had previously had to be filled from the root canal up, which apparently makes the tooth fragile — it happens, it was just bad luck. The root canal treatment had been a couple of years previous, and the top bit of it had had to be redone because a couple of days after having it done the first time I managed to chip a bit off the tooth. Clearly there wasn't actually much of this tooth left after the dentist had filled it.


How this started was: when I moved to my current house I didn't register with a new dentist, for reasons of being lazy and avoidant, and I hadn't seen my previous dentist for a while because they had gone private and also because I missed my last appointment owing to having lost my diary on a train and they wanted to charge me 15 quid for the privilege of not having seen a dentist. So it was somewhere between three and five years since I'd seen a dentist when one December while I was visiting my parents I noticed something odd about one of the gaps between my teeth while eating a bread roll and I thought I found a flake of tooth that had come out of the gap. I couldn't feel anything actually wrong, though. When I got back to Oxford I decided I had better look for a dentist and booked a checkup. Because it had been a while since I had last been to a dentist (and I'd never had a dental X-ray anyway) the dentist decided I should have an X-ray taken. Then he did the checkup and said "Your teeth look fine — we'll just wait for the X-ray to be developed to make sure." When the X-ray came back there was a big area of decay immediately visible below the surface, and that's when he decided I needed root canal treatment.

Not that I want to scare you or anything, but. It can happen. And dentists wouldn't take routine X-rays if it were always obvious when something's wrong.
imc From: imc Date: February 23rd, 2005 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
And: although I did go to the dentist semi-regularly between that initial visit and having the tooth out, I haven't been back since for reasons of being lazy and avoidant (and they never sent me a reminder). The chap who did the filling was a pleasant Geordie, but in early 2002 when I phoned up to book a checkup I got told that he had left, so I booked to see his replacement. A couple of days before the appointment the receptionist telephoned me to say that the dentist I was due to see had gone to Australia, so I made another booking to see someone else. The dentist I saw about my broken tooth was yet another person who in somewhat broken English told me my tooth was broken (oh, really?) and that I needed another appointment for him to take it out. Which he did, very painfully. So I didn't get on with him. And neither did bopeepsheep when she saw him. But now she sees another dentist who works there, who is apparently very nice.
atreic From: atreic Date: February 23rd, 2005 01:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is it worth getting a private quote for a not-one-colour cap? If it would mean that it was 600 instead of 400 it would still be cheaper than paying for the cap and the bleaching. If it really is $lotsofmoney then you wouldn't have lost anything but time (unless it would cost lots of money to get the quote in the first place, but given you know exactly what the problem is that seems unlikely) Then again, if this was the case you expect they'd have told you.

My gut feeling is that it's a lot of money and fuss for what it is. But as far as your reservations go

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.

Well, that comment shows you've got your priorities in the right order. The important things do matter more to you. It matters more that you should love and be loved than that I should hoover the living room too, but that doesn't mean a nice hoovered living room might make me happy once in a while, if I had time and tuits...

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.)

You're just unlucky that the thing you want confirms to popular images of perfection. There's nothing wrong with liking symmetry and neatness*. If you wanted to do something that you thought would look nice that wasn't in the popular image you wouldn't have this problem. Obviously the solution is to get the titanium fangs *and* the tooth capped :-)

*Well, OK, maybe there is, but it's an obsessive dangerous mathmo kind of wrongness, not a wanting to be trendy kind of wrongness

j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2005 03:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is it worth getting a private quote for a not-one-colour cap?

Well, like I said, I'd really rather not have to pay extra for them to make me a new tooth that looks as crap as my existing teeth. I'd rather they all looked a bit better.

It matters more that you should love and be loved than that I should hoover the living room too

But they're completely different things, completely different contexts, in a way that looks and personality aren't necessarily. I don't have to walk around with my living-room-hoovering credentials emblazoned on my face.

hairyears From: hairyears Date: February 23rd, 2005 02:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Shouldn't cost that much for brightening: see City Dental Clinic and look up the fees. Also, a simple descale and polish from the hygienist might sort out most of the colour problems. Which are surely only a 'problem' if you have prominent teeth, and I don't recall that you do.

As for a veneer on the half tooth, I've got one of those and yes, it did make a difference to the way people respond. But I got a veneer fitted, matched for translucency and colour gradient, for slightly less than the quote you've been given.

Neglecting your gob leads - eventually - to 'orrible and expensive general health as well as oral problems. I would know this, first hand. Regular checkups really are cost-effective!

Meanwhile, hibernation:

As you know, I am part rodent, and the rodent part is hibernating today. This means that the coffee isn't really working. The inviting space under my desk, with its rat's nest of chewed cabling, is calling to my small-and-whiskery hairy-eared hindbrain. It's warm from all the cooling fans. It has soothing humming noises. It has reassuring mess. It's dark. Must. Stay. Awake.
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2005 03:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
a simple descale and polish from the hygienist might sort out most of the colour problems

It never has done before! Like I said, it's not just discoloration from the things I eat etc., it's apparently something deeper than that. (Which would explain why it's never gone away with all the brushing and polishing I've tried or with treatments from the hygienist.)

I don't have very prominent teeth but I'm still very conscious of the fact that when I grin people see a mouthful of yellowy teeth with a big gap in it. Which is why, when I remember, I don't grin.
emperor From: emperor Date: February 23rd, 2005 04:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't ever recall thinking "j4 could do with some dental faff", and there are people where I find myself thinking that. So, err, I wouldn't bother if I were you, but I'm not. Err. That wasn't helpful was it?
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2005 10:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I dunno, nobody ever seems to notice the damn thing f2f (unless they say it's "cute" in which case I BITE THEM), which I guess is reassuring... but then I see myself in photos and I look like a fucking hag. I guess I could probably cope with the gap if I never ever had to see another photo of myself, or see myself in a mirror, again, but it's a bit hard to guarantee that.
burkesworks From: burkesworks Date: February 23rd, 2005 05:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
My advice to you is save your £400 and spend it all on beer, Bovril, Fairport Convention CDs, fluffy toy badgers and corsetry. You have a lovely smile (and personality) as it is; you don't need to augment it artificially.
j4 From: j4 Date: February 23rd, 2005 10:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
But I've spent at least twice that amount in the past year on beer, Bovril, CDs, badgers and clothes, and it hasn't made me happy except in the very-short-term. It hasn't made me feel good about the way I look (well, okay, some of the clothes do momentarily, until I stop being able to fit in them), it just surrounds me with STUFF that makes me feel guilty about the amount of money I've spent. (So why do I buy it? It's a quick fix, with a corresponding comedown.)

If I don't need to augment myself artificially, what's the point in spending money on corsetry?

How much (or rather how little) would the tooth-cosmetics have to cost before you thought they were as worthwhile a making-me-happy purchase as a CD, a badger, an item of clothing?

Just curious. No offence intended, it's just that arguing with other people helps me work out what I'm thinking.
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