“I lost my tooth!”  I remember crowing those words when I arrived home after a day at school spent worrying the stubborn thread that anchored my “baby” tooth to its place in my gums.  That victory meant a visit from the Tooth Fairy, and a dime when I was six, growing to quarters as the babies became molars, their departures leaving  larger craters to be filled by a permanent replacement.

Several years ago, after a persistent throbbing in my lower jaw, I went to my dentist, who sent me to an endodontist, who told me I needed an extensive root canal if I were to save this tooth.  Those words—save this tooth—haunt me still.  I had the procedure, suffered through almost six months with a numb tongue due to a reaction to local anesthetic (who knew that anything with cinnamon could jangle even damaged nerves?), and carried that salvaged structure of bone and enamel into the world, reborn.

Two years ago, however, during an idyllic wedding ceremony on Cape Code, a backdrop of soft peach sunset and migrating geese, I felt that familiar ache.  By the time the music built to a crescendo at the reception, my mouth throbbed in accompaniment.  Tylenol, Advil, got me home and to the endodontist once more.  “Trish, I have to tell you,” we had become friends by now, so many hours we had spent together,” I could take you through the process again, but in the end, this is a failed tooth.  It won’t last.”  He recommended an oral surgeon who specializes in implants, and within the week, I had had my first extraction, and a post inserted, awaiting the new tooth, man-made, that would fill the hole.  Existentially…nothing could.  There could be no natural replacement


When I bit down on an errant egg shell the week of my birthday last September, a jolt of pain shot from my upper jaw throughout my body.  “Shoot!  What was that?”  but inside I knew: something serious.  On the first day of December, I had a second extraction.  The dentist apologized, calling the crack that went all the way up through the root a “wonky” one, and said he was sorry our initial meeting brought such bad news.  Today I return for phase two on the replacement journey.

This time I have approached the loss, the failure of my parts, with resignation.  I still have most of my own teeth.  Unlike the trauma of slamming into a wall and loosing a row at once, this attrition is gradual, this losing.  I can adapt.  Nothing’s permanent, after all.

4 thoughts on “Permanent”

  1. Wow, you have had quite an adventure with that tooth. I hope you are able to find some pain relief finally. It is interesting how this tooth seems to have been a part of some important memories, like your wedding. Nothing is permanent, but your memories of this tooth might end up being so.

  2. I admire your ability to be stoic about your teeth. I, on the other hand, am terrified of dental work. The one crown I’ve had put on reduced me to panic. I will try to remember your words that nothing is permanent…

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