Sunday, December 03, 2006

Refurbishing Myself

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine sent me a photo she took of me, herself, and two other friends. We’re all grinning like lunatics, but one of those grins is not like the others. (Click at your own risk.) And that grin is mine. My teeth are awful! They’re dull and yellowy and, most irksome, one of my front teeth is a crown that is nowhere near the color of the rest of my teeth.

I really would like to assassinate the dentist that did that crown and all the people in the tooth lab. They made such a big deal about how Eric Clapton had come to them when he was in Chicago and needed an emergency crown. Wow, I thought at the time, I’m in good company. But wait a ding-dong minute. Eric Clapton is English, and—not to stereotype or anything—but the English aren’t known for their choppers. And I don’t even like Eric Clapton. Plus, why is it that all recent pictures of Eric Clapton show him with his mouth firmly shut? Could it be because he has a botched crown made by a certain lab in Chicago? Hmmmm. I wonder.

Of course, at the time I wasn’t thinking about any of this. It was also prior to the day on which I decided that I never needed to hear “Layla” or “Cocaine” ever again in my life. And it was also before he wrote that intolerably saccharine song “Wonderful Tonight.” God, I hate that song. Anyway, this crown of mine is bad. Not only is the color match way off, there’s a rim of grayish metal showing between the enamel and the gum. My dentist assured me that the gum would slimpse back and cover that metal bit in a matter of days. I’m still waiting—it’s been more than 10 years. If anything, the gum has receded even more.

So there’s the awful crown, which cost about a grand (not covered by my insurance) and isn’t even any damn good. It really leaps out in the photo, a photo taken with one tipsy hand in dim nighttime light outside of a restaurant. If it looks that bad under those circumstances, what does it look like in real life at high noon? Don’t answer that. And then there’s the fact that the rest of my teeth are well on their way to looking like those of a nutria.


Anyway, after looking at that photo, I decided that I’ve really got to do some refurbishment. I’ve never been happy with my teeth, but obviously they’re just getting worse and worse.* I remembered seeing an ad in People magazine for something called Lumineers. They’re a newish type of veneer. The best thing is that they can be applied right over botched crowns, so that problem would be solved. Funny thing, though, I found tons of dramatic “before” and “after” photos and lots of gushing testimonials, but nowhere did I find even a ballpark dollar amount for how much these things cost. And you can’t just call a dentist and ask, you have to fill in a Web form and then someone will call you—and give you the hard sell. Ugh. I hate that.

After much searching, I finally found an estimate. Have a seat. $700 to $1000 per tooth!!!!! It’s cosmetic dentistry, so insurance won’t cover it. I’d probably have to have a minimum of 20 teeth done. There’s just no way.

So now I’m thinking about bleaching. I’ve actually had my teeth professionally bleached before—maybe seven or eight years ago—when I lived in Chicago. I saw absolutely no detectable difference. Three hundred bucks down the crapper. My dental hygienist in Portland, however, tells me that they have this new much stronger, much better bleach these days. She’s had her teeth done and I would be thrilled if mine could look like hers. I asked her what color they were before she had them bleached. “Oh, about your color,” she said. Do I believe her? Or do I just start training myself to keep my mouth shut?

Clapton With His Mouth Shut

*Part of it is genetics. My teeth have never been that white. I inherited my mom’s teeth, which just got more and more yellowy-brown as she aged. No looking forward to that.


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