“Wait, are you missing a tooth Stacy?” my friend Ananda asked me. We were laughing before she noticed the hole where my tooth used to be.
I was laughing so hard that I forgot that I was supposed to be hiding my flaw. My guard was down. My head was cocked back. My mouth was wide open. I was laughing, and of course she noticed. She’s one of my best friends.
“Yes,” I said. I stopped laughing.
“When did you lose a tooth?! How did that happen?!”
I really wasn’t ready to talk about this. She was supposed to be making me feel better. My boyfriend and I had just broken up. I just wanted to keep laughing, but I figured I would get this conversation out of the way. I knew it would come up again at some point.
I broke my tooth when I went to Thailand last year. I was sitting in the Chiang Mai airport with three other friends. We waited in an airport lounge until it was time to board our flight to Phuket. The lounge was loaded with pastries. I chose the popcorn.
I chewed a few kernels, then chomped down on something really hard. I assumed it was a kernel. That always happens. I rolled the kernel around in my mouth to separate it from the other edible pieces of popcorn, so I could neatly spit it out into my napkin. But the cleaner I got the kernel, the more I noticed its ridges. I kept rubbing my tongue over it and felt how it was smooth on one side and sharp on the other.
“It’s my tooth!” I screamed in my head. I sat up straight and raised my eyebrows in shock. Then I quickly put them back down and tried to sit normal again. I watched my friends to see if they could tell that I was panicking. They were still talking about the elephants we rode. They had no idea that my body was falling apart at the airport.
I went back to using my tongue to investigate what part of my mouth my tooth had abandoned. It was on the top row, on the left side of my mouth. It was the third tooth from the back.
The next step was trying to figure out how to get the tooth out of my mouth, without my friends noticing. I used one of the napkins in my hands, pretended I was wiping off my mouth, and spit the tooth into it. I wanted to see what I looked like with a missing tooth, so I stuffed the tooth-filled napkin into my purse and headed to the bathroom.
I studied my face and my smile in the bathroom. I still looked the same, but my eyes were watery. I was holding back tears. I dabbed my eyes with a paper towel, left the restroom and went back to sit with my friends in the lounge. We boarded the flight to Phuket. While they napped, I looked out the airplane window and let tears stream down my face.
“How could my tooth fall out? What did I do wrong?” I thought to myself. I always disliked brushing my teeth, even as a kid, but I still did it. Maybe it fell out because I didn’t always get that second brush in at night. Maybe it was because I only flossed right before going to the dentist. Maybe I ate too much sweet stuff. What if I was sick and this was a symptom? Maybe I was malnourished.
I actually started having trouble with my tooth back in 2005. My mom took me to see her dentist that she really liked. He told me I had a bunch of cavities. I didn’t believe him. When I was younger, I went to a different dentist who told me I had deep grooves in my teeth that could be confused with cavities. Most kids who had teeth like mine got some kind of sealer put on them to protect them. When I told my mom about it back then, she opted out of it for me. So years later, I’m at her dentist, and he’s now telling me I have more cavities than I have teeth.
I went back to my mom’s dentist for a follow-up appointment, and he filled in all of the cavities at once. My mouth felt like it didn’t sit right after that. It was like the top row of teeth and the bottom row didn’t fit together anymore. Also, when I chewed gum, it always got caught on this one tooth. When I ate food, it always got stuck in this one tooth. It was the tooth that would break 10 years later in Thailand.
A year before it fell out, I started getting these horrible aches where my troubled tooth was. I took myself to a new dentist. She told me she would need to pull my tooth, and if I wanted, I could have a fake tooth installed.
“A fake tooth?!” I rebuked all of that in Jesus’s name and never went back.
So fast forward a year, and now I’m crying about my broken tooth on an airplane in some strange land.
After we checked into our hotel in Phuket, I told one my travel-mates about my tooth. I started crying, and she hugged me and reminded me that sometimes things just happen. She also encouraged me to enjoy our last few days on vacation. After all, we were in Thailand, and how often does that happen?
I also Google messaged my boyfriend at the time. It didn’t really bother him that I might have a witch’s mouth the next time he saw me. He just wanted to make sure I was okay, and he kept telling me how much he missed me. The crazy thing is that the rest of my tooth broke a month later at his house while I was brushing my teeth, right before we were heading to a water park.
I tried to hide the hole in my mouth by smiling a little less wide. He told me not to do that. He said he could hardly see the spot where it was missing and that I looked more ridiculous doing the pimp half-smile thing. He also shared that he had lost part of his tooth a while back. That made me feel better. It also made me laugh. We were like two snaggletoothed peas in a pod.
Over time, I eventually got over my very broken tooth. Part of me even started to think it was cool, like it gave me character or something. Plus, I would always have this great story about how I lost a tooth in Thailand, just like in one of those Hangover movies.
There was also a small part of me that felt like my body had failed me. My tooth had just jumped ship. I had always had nightmares about losing teeth, and then it finally happened. I haven’t had the dream since then.
Months after rest of my tooth broke, no one seemed to notice or comment on on it, except my mom. But she always noticed my imperfections and always commented on them in a judgy-mom way…whether it was my stretch marks, if my skin was dry, if I gained weight, if I had a pimple, if I had a new mole that she didn’t care for, or a new bruise or cut from playing outside. It was really annoying.
My other family members and friends didn’t seem to notice or think it was worth mentioning, which was fine by me. People still complimented me on my smile. I also managed to take all of my pictures on the right side. I was adapting…and then came Ananda, making me laugh and what not.