Teeth, women, and cars

They say you can tell how a man will treat a woman by the way he takes care of his car. If he keeps his car cleaned and tuned, presumably he’ll treat his wife well. If cars can be barometers of future behavior, I think teeth can be indicators for the way we’ve lived in the past.

Which means dentists can tell a lot about us. Did our teeth rot? Was it from sugar or bad care? They know. They even know at what age the problem began. They see teeth of adults who, as children, could afford to get them straightened, then let them go to pot. They see old teeth that are crooked but otherwise well cared for. They see people who have gentically good or bad teeth; no matter what they do their teeth will survive or rot.

I was thinking about this while putting in an hour-and-a-half at the dentist yesterday, most of that time with three or four hands in my mouth, under repeated shots of novacaine – I lost count – and the air surrounding my reclining body filled with the mist of ground tooth enamel. And in case I missed the complexity of it all, I was billed $900.

Back in my truck, I knew I’d failed the tooth-lifestyle test. I consoled myself with, “But I have an almost new truck. In good condition.” Then I looked around the cab: two pruning saws, old magazines and newspapers – some yellowed from the sun, a sweatshirt, a dozen supermarket receipts – they turn blue, a box cutter, a bunch of pre-1981 pennies (made of pure copper) I’ve been saving them because they’re worth three cents, business cards from last year when I was going to mow lawns part-time (“Quality is affordable!”), broken sunglasses, a corkscrew, a new toothbrush from a previous visit to the dentist, binoculars, a field guide to birds, and a drycleaner redemption ticket for shirts that have been waiting six weeks for me to pick them up. I live alone.

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One Comment on “Teeth, women, and cars”

  1. Frank Paolo Says:

    I would not care what Dentists thought of my teeth – I would be much more concerned about the opinions of executive interviewers. One told me how important this is years ago concerning a person’s background. Companies want executives with manners, the ‘right’ education, the ‘right’ wife and kids, etc. I’m not saying this is ‘right’ – just that it exists.

    But how can they really determine how a person was raised which is so vital to an executive’s success? One of the craftier clues is teeth. In this country, the law forces parents to get kids medical care – no choice. But the same is not true of dental care. Good parents sacrifice and take their kids in for braces, fillings, etc. – but they don’t HAVE TO. So in a superficial way, good parents often result in good executives.


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