A silly little tooth story

In my teens, I started to see braces appear on some of my schoolmates. It looked like an annoying, painful, and impractical experience. I didn’t think much more about it, until I saw the results later: one by one, they started showing up without braces and with perfectly straight teeth.

Around the same time, I became aware of how conventionally attractive people around me (and in the media) all seemed to have something in common: ultra-white, impossibly straight teeth.

(Everyone knows what comes next.)

I realized that my teeth weren’t straight or white. My bottom teeth were crowded enough that one of them stuck out much further than the others. After not caring about my teeth for almost 20 years, I suddenly decided I hated them.

That sticky-outy tooth in the bottom center became the focus of my wrath. I blamed it for pushing against my top teeth and making them (ever so slightly) crooked. I hated that tooth the most.

Just after graduating high school, while swimming in the ocean along Australia’s east coast, I was hit in the face by a rogue surfboard. The impact broke off the top half of that pesky little sticky-outy tooth. The bottom half, still in my gums, wobbled when I touched it.

My instinct was to rip it out, but a friend – who happened to be a dental nurse at the time – came straight over and told me to hold it in place until it re-set. (Thank god for Holly!)

I hated that tooth before. But now that it was broken in half, I hated it even more.

Upon my return to Melbourne, I went straight to the dentist. I had barely any money and still lived with my parents, so they paid for it to be repaired – a cobbled together crown made of composite, something to make do until I could afford a proper crown. It cost $200 and didn’t look realistic; just a blob in the vague shape of a tooth that matched the color of my other teeth.

The next time I was at the dentist for a cleaning, I complained: “My teeth are terrible. They’re so crowded, and so yellow. I want braces!”

“I really don’t think you need them”, said the dentist. “Why don’t you try whitening them first and then see how you feel?”

He was right. With my teeth just a few shades whiter, I felt confident. I started to enjoy the fact that my teeth weren’t perfectly straight. They had character, and they looked clean, bright, and well-cared for.

But that temporary sticky-outy crown remained stained and yellow. I’d stopped hating it for being crooked: now I hated it because was a completely different color.

(As it turns out, the “temporary” crown wasn’t all that temporary. It stuck around, yellow and blob-shaped, for about 20 years.)

Last year, the first time I saw my new local dentist for a cleaning, she noticed the old, yellow temporary composite tooth, and mentioned that she’d like to redo it one day with a proper crown, and I agreed.

Earlier this year, when we met to start the process, I pitched an idea: instead of a regular crown, why not use gold?

She was surprised; normally gold crowns are reserved for molars or less visible teeth. But when she realized I was serious, she agreed. We made the appointments, planned, prepped the tooth, took moulds, and I waited for the gold crown to be fabricated.

As of yesterday, that little sticky-outy tooth still sticks out – but now it’s encased in gold.

It’s shiny. It’s bright. When I talk, you see tiny little glimpses of it. When I smile, you don’t see it at all.

Just like I’ve done with some of my tattoos, I’ve reclaimed a body part that used to make me self-conscious by applying something beautiful to it. I’m drawing attention to it instead of hiding it.

Like tattoos, a gold tooth isn’t to everyone’s taste, but fuck it: life’s too short to care what anyone else thinks about my appearance, as long as I like how I look. And with every passing year, I like how I look more and more.

I don’t hate that tooth anymore. I fucking love it.