Teeth are a constant problem. We start life without any and many of us end up with none. Happy is the child suckling at breast. There are no teeth then to threaten the pleasure, comfort and satisfaction experienced by both mother and child. This is the most basic joy of giving and receiving. It is never surpassed and once that time has passed it is never re-gained.
All too soon a child begins to produce teeth. Just the term to describe the process, “cutting teeth”, suggests pain. It seems that something that would have been better and painlessly done in the womb has just been forgotten. Perhaps nine months is too short a time. The child has no understanding of it. The coming of teeth hurts so the infant cries. All of the pleasure being newly experienced of fresh tastes and textures of food other than milk is interrupted and spoiled. The mouth is assaulted by parental fingers poking in to layer on some quickly dissolved strange tasting cream which gives transient relief to the gums made sore by erupting teeth.
With luck all twenty-two new, white, firm and solid structures are set in matching positions in upper and lower jaws. The child quickly appreciates the utility of teeth. In addition to dealing with food teeth can be used to open containers and packets. Toys soft and hard can be ripped, maimed and marked. A rival or irritating companion can be controlled with a swift bite deftly administered. It can occasionally draw blood to emphasize the point. All too soon this era is over.
One by one the twenty-two weapons loosen and fall out. It is an experience that comes as a surprise and not without some discomfort. The child realizes suddenly that invincibility is not eternal. The rewarding “tooth fairy” is not totally reassuring. Some relief is felt as thirty-two larger, stronger weapons develop in the mouth though often not without some pain.
The fortunate few have no need of braces and other orthodontic devices to correct irregularities. Socially acceptable teeth can happen naturally. The constant rituals of brushing and flossing do a good maintenance job but eventually teeth wear. Cavities occur and the pain of decay and abscesses is felt. Drilling and filling preserve teeth for a while but all too soon extractions are necessary. As good as modern anesthetic drugs are the process of losing teeth is not comfortable.
Soon plates are necessary to replace lost teeth. Constantly changing and aging jaws cause tailor-made sets of teeth to become ill-fitting and painful both physically and financially. Eventually one returns to the immediately post-natal state, toothless.
Dentists have grown rich fighting a lost cause. Where were they when the pointless economics of proposing a few thousand dollars worth of repairs to last twenty years to a seventy year old was taught? They do their best with ever improving techniques but for many teeth do not last the course of life.
Painfully unique in resisting relief teeth would be a lifelong problem. If they lasted that long!