I am in a continuous battle with my teeth.

When I was young, there was a Mankin legend that my teeth were soft because my mother used Erythromycin during pregnancy. Or perhaps it was her smoking. But I will take full responsibility. Most certainly, it was my affinity for Twinkies and sugary cereal that led to the myriad of fillings that I carried around through childhood. Add a hockey injury that took out my front tooth in 9th grade and I had a mouth that was more resin and amalgam it seems than native enamel.

As we have all learned, yesterday’s brilliant innovation is often tomorrow’s headache. Some of the resins and amalgams, not to mention the “Space Age” plastics that my former dentists used had a functional life that was far shorter (thank the lord) than mine. Dr. Brill and Dr. Berman paved the way for plenty of work for dentists to come, whether through well-meaning progress, poor technique, or outright malevolence I will never know.

I don’t mind the work, to be honest. Dental treatment has never held any terror for me, even on the day I discovered that I could bite the inside of my cheek without pain the first time I had Novocain, proceeding unsupervised to tear it to shreds. Maybe it is my Puritan upbringing that tells me I deserve the pain. Maybe it is that the work is actually rather fascinating. Regardless, it is not the procedures themselves that I resent. It is the wasted time. The parade of hours spent captive to HGTV while the dentist or hygienist scrapes and drills.  Or maybe it is the unrelenting nature of the issue. It never rains but it pours. I will complete one major treatment when the dentist will say, “Hello, what’s this?” and find a new crown to replace or new cracking in a hitherto innocent molar.

No end in sight, but I guess it beats the alternative. I remember being with my aged father in Chicago for his last ever AAOS meeting. I had found a hideaway on the busy exhibit floor for us to rest and had scouted out a Diet Coke and a gorgeous chocolate chip cookie for him, his two favorite foods. He bit into the baked good, made a small face, then reached into his mouth and pulled out a tooth, unbroken but unmoored. He shrugged, wrapped it in his napkin, and returned to his snack. What was one less tooth at his time of life especially compared with the joy of a chocolate chip cookie?