Saturday 5th November
Grandma had false teeth, I can remember as a little girl laughing as she pulled faces at me and made her top teeth slip forward and almost out of her mouth, then back in again, quick as a flash. I had almost forgotten this, except for the fact that Grandma could never eat apples or toffee “because of my teeth, my dear”, until, when she became poorly, and I was brought up short by the sight of her dentures in a glass on her bedside cabinet. They looked so sad, half floating in their little glass, and Grandma’s face had collapsed in on itself a bit as she lay half asleep on the pillow. It was quite common for her generation to have all their teeth out and false teeth fitted, and my mother had a small top plate with about four teeth, two on either side which she would sometimes leave in the kitchen in her own glass, with a tablet of Steradent fizzing away. So my mother’s teeth were in a better state than her own mothers, which was not really the case with me.
Although I was rarely indulged with sweets, and visited our dentist regularly every six months, the policy seemed to be one of intervention, intervention and even more intervention. Every possible crack or hint of a crack, every tiny hole, every small blemish in the enamel, was attacked with the fervour of a zealot, and my poor teeth were drilled hollow and stuffed full of enough mercury and amalgam to sink a small battleship. Consequently, in my late fifties and sixties I have suffered from a succession of broken teeth, with huge chunks calving off like glaciers approaching the sea. One piece even came out as I was eating a soft croissant, I was horrified to find a hard lump in the croissant, and at first thought it was a small stone left in the flour. My tongue isolated it and as I spat it into my palm I was even more horrified to find that yet another tooth had cracked, leaving a jagged sharp shell which I knew would soon be giving me trouble. And so I have had a series of crowns and bridges fitted, and now my dentist is talking about implants, where a whole new artificial tooth, root and all, is imbedded into my jaw. At over a thousand pounds a tooth I might add. So we have nearly come full circle, and I really feel that I prefer to have the crowns and at least a few bits of my own teeth, even if they are only stumps, than a whole new set of inevitably plastic implants.
At least today’s children with a lifetime of fluoridated water and a much better dental regime should stand a better chance of retaining their teeth. But with life-expectancy reaching ever more lofty heights will these new centurions still have a full set of shiny white teeth, or will we all end up with implants, as more and more bits of our bodies are replaced as we live ever longer.