Photos: New Jersey, May 2009; Portland, OR, August 2010; Madison, WI, 2009.
(And yes, I just realized all of my friends have freakishly gorgeous teeth. To read about the Brooklyn periodontist who would probably use these as “after” photos to sell me something, click below.)
The periodontist dims the lights, closes the blinds, and lowers a huge screen on the wall of his office. He projects enormous close-ups of my mouth alongside X-rays he has just taken. “Now, you have what we would call a high gum line,” he says. “Has this ever been…an issue for you?”
Not really, sir. What is an issue for me is that I still have baby teeth. Fake ones. And one of them fell out, just popped right out of my mouth and onto my desk, as I munched a breakfast pastry a couple of months ago. It’s time to replace them with permanent implants. None of this will be covered by insurance, as the congenital lack of adult teeth counts as a pre-existing condition.
But an opportunity for a pitch is an opportunity for a pitch. Dr. Z. uses words like “slender” and “feminine” and “gum lift” to describe optional ways I could get closer to “the perfect smile,” since the basic procedure I’m here for—having screws drilled into my mouth bones—is less than sexy. In New York, we can make everything sexy.
And momentous. Don’t forget, he cautions. This is a permanent decision. This is my last chance to ever make my teeth more “adult.” And we’re only talking about an eighth of a millimeter of gums he’ll trim away if I give him permission to make my smile more harmonious. And only on these two teeth. Well, maybe the two on either side of each of those – and, if I want, maybe two or four more. After all, this is the front of my mouth.
He preempts a question I didn’t know I had: “Now, you don’t have to have a metal screw. You can have gold. You can have zirconium! It’s clear and white. Since this is the front of your mouth we’re talking about, that’s what I recommend in your case.” He clearly has me pegged: this nonprofit salaried, everyone’s-smile-is-a-snowflake-and-we’re-all-going-to-die-anyway duckling would never settle for icky silvery metal INSIDE HER TEETH.