Certifiable Dental Health

It is a matter of not inconsiderable pride to me that I have something in common with the late and most magnificent Freddie Mercury.

What is it, you wonder. A penchant for singlets? A four octave vocal range? A thick, luscious moustache?

It’s none of these. What we share is an overjet.

If you’re not familiar with the term, it means our front teeth sit forward of the bottom teeth.

I got mine from sucking my thumb (it calms me down). Freddie’s is a much bigger overjet. I’m not going to speculate on what he’d been sucking.

The point is, my teeth aren’t perfect in spite of a lot of treatment and a colossal Denplan outlay each year and the bad news is, things are not set to improve.

The world of oral hygiene and dental appearance has expanded tremendously since I first started my juvenile trips to see Mr Dandekar, a surly dentist who communicated through dense, unruly eyebrows.

Ask if the procedure you’d be undergoing might hurt, he’d raise an eyebrow. Ask if it would take long and you’d get the same reaction. Ask if that gigantic pair of pliers was heading for your mouth and that brow moved skyward again.

Those eyebrows were the ‘Brexit means Brexit’ answer to any question. They were furry obfuscation.

My parents fussed about my teeth throughout my childhood, escorting me to Dentist Dandekar and later to the orthodontist for my free-on-the-NHS treatment.

(Younger readers may not appreciate the time before teeth were privatised, but there was such a time, when politicians aspired to great teeth for all instead of obsessing about Europe.)

Once my braces were removed, my teeth looked fabulous. White, straight and fit for Hollywood.

I took them to university with me and they did their thing; we graduated together and they positively twinkled in my graduation photos. Wow! What great teeth!

Years passed. I noticed that one of my front teeth looked slightly discoloured. It was time to sign back on with the dentist.

By this point, the world of free NHS dentistry was just a memory and I was forced to contract my teeth out to the private sector.

That grey tooth? Bleached internally and externally along with its neighbours. My smile was restored.

Had I thought about flossing, my new dental hygienist wondered.


Flossing is the line in the sand which separates the Executive Youth from younger types who’ve grown up with the concept.

In past times my tooth brushing regime might have taken as long as two minutes. On special occasions, mouthwash may have come into play. Especially if mouth play was in the plan.

These days, my oral health routine is taking closer to a quarter of an hour, involves a selection of brushes and other products and pretty much counts as contraception given that my husband has invariably fallen asleep by the time it’s done.

I explain to him that teeth matter. Innumerable surveys report that the teeth are the most highly ranked facial feature when it comes to perceptions of beauty. We are being judged by our teeth every day.

I’ve rejected plenty of potential partners on the grounds of too much plaque, over crowding and actual toothlessness. My own overjet has probably ruled me out of a whole load of relationships with the rich, influential or famous. Bugger. 

Last year I had a full blown dental trauma.

I bit into an overcooked samosa and my front tooth cracked from top to bottom. Never was an appointment more of an emergency.

The following day at the dentist’s joke time (2.30) I was being fitted up for a crown.

“I’ve never seen a crown that didn’t look like a crown!” I wailed to my dentist.

“Trust me! I’m a private dentist!” He said as he rammed my mouth full of gloop.

As it hardened in my mouth I knew that I’d reached adulthood. I’d joined all those proper grown-ups with crowns and bridges and root canal stories.

I declined the offer to look at my toothless self in the mirror before the crown went on. I’ve seen ‘Deliverance’ and I don’t want to think I could fit right in to rural Georgia.

My crowned tooth is a miracle. Unless I told you, you’d never know it wasn’t the real thing.

But I worry more about my teeth than ever. My dentist tells me they’re like a china dinner service. They get chipped, cracked and discoloured as they age.

His words rattle around my head every night as I reach for the Colgate. The anxiety mounts.

I stick my thumb in and keep sucking.

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  1. Such quality writing,most interesting to read. How much overcooked was the samosa to crack your tooth, I wonder – it must have been a complete cinder. I have three crowns; a gold and two silvers.

  2. As I popped a toffee into my mouth on the journey up to Leeds this weekend I had the tinniest thought that as my teeth are documented to be deteriorating maybe it wasn’t the best move. A few minutes later my toffee had acquired a hard center! I have an emergency appointment tomorrow AM to repair the damage. Looks like toffees are off the pleasure list! 🙁

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