My teef hurt!

This is a blog about dentists and memory.

On Monday, I got up very early to go to the endodontist. An endodonist is a dentist with more training and a more confusing title. An edodonist is someone who specializes in root canals, which means they have many, many interesting and frightening tools at their disposal. And because a root canal on my front tooth was infected, I had the pleasure of visiting said super-dentist.

I was not looking forward to it. There was, of course, anesthesia. There was also drilling with tools that sound like lasers from a bad B-movie. I gripped the sides of the chair a lot, closed my eyes, and tried to fall asleep. On the whole, it was painless but it was not pleasant. And, then, when it was all over, the doctor told me something that surprised me: he said the root of the tooth had been broken off by a “trauma,” most like something that happened to me when I was a child.

Trauma. Trauma. What trauma? I tried to think, but nothing came to mind. Yes, I’m the clumsy type, but I also wasn’t very athletic, either. So there really wasn’t a chance I got hit in the face with a baseball, soccer ball or any other flying objects, because typically I wasn’t playing sports. So what was it?

But for about 36 hours, I forgot about what he said. I just popped some Ibuprofen, went to work, came home, went to the gym, came home, popped some more Ibuprofen, went to sleep, woke up the next day and went to work again. And then, tonight, as I left the building, a memory flashed in my brain.

Elementary School. Music class. We had a substitute teacher, who had us playing a game where we passed a blue drumstick-like thing as fast as we could from student to student. Whoever passed it to me — and just, now, as I’m writing this, I think I remember who it was — hit me in the front tooth with the stick. I remember lifting my hand to my mouth, looking down, and seeing that it was covered in blood.

I don’t remember crying. I don’t remember what the teacher said to me. I only remember the metallic taste of blood in mouth, and that I was sent to the nurse. I don’t remember what happened when I got there, or what I said to my parents when I got home from school that day, or if I ever said anything at all. Because school pictures prove I lost my front baby teeth in the first grade, and I’m almost sure this happened later in elementary school, I have a feeling this music-class incident was very likely the trauma that broke the root of my tooth.

I’m not sure why this struck me so much today. I started smiling after the memory came to me, not because it was a happy one but because it was so vivid. And how could one thing in my life now could trigger something so far away in the past? If I’m right, that little elementary school mishap cost me a few hundred dollars two decades later.

Also, I don’t know about you folks out there, but my short-term memory is terrible. And my long-term memory feels farther and farther away. What was important to me, back then? Life can seem so long when you’re in the middle of it, but yet I can’t remember what made my days long when I was a little girl.

Memory is all about triggers. If I think about dentists, or if I think about even teeth, so many different images pop in my mind. I don’t remember my first cleaning, I don’t remember losing my first tooth. But I do remember the small, white pillow my mother gave me when I was little. A tiny pocket was sewn on the front; above it, stitched in blue thread, were the words, “For the tooth fairy.”

Or I think that’s what it said. What I remember for sure is that the pocket was for each baby tooth I lost, to be replaced by a penny or a dime in the morning. I also remember that the pillow was stained from apple juice I spilled, right over the pocket. I wonder now, where did my mother put the baby teeth later, and did she ever tell me? Did I ever ask? And is that kind of thing parents preserve, a tangible thing that recalls the way we are as children?

I have plenty of bad memories about dentists and teeth (and braces. Don’t get me started on the braces). Of course, on a day to day basis, I don’t think about any of these things, nor do I think about what they mean or trigger. But around every little corner, or underneath the sound of a very, very scary endodontist’s drill, float these fleeting, elusive pieces of the past.

Now where the hell is some Ibuprofen?


~ by viannadavila on February 23, 2010.

2 Responses to “My teef hurt!”

  1. fun reflections on memories…. think my brain works the same way

  2. haha. long term memory is so interesting, when i hang out with you et al. i remember stuff i haven’t thought about in YEARS.

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