Life after teeth

Life after teeth

Joe's baguette

Joe Collier relishes becoming a crusty old man again

As I reached the top of the stairs I was overtaken by a man in a hurry mumbling, “Health and Safety...” We were both heading for the Gents and once inside, in fact standing shoulder-to-shoulder, his Health and Safety theme continued. We men generally stay quiet while availing ourselves, so my neighbour’s words had an added poignancy. After some prompting he explained that sixth months earlier, before his hip replacement, climbing those stairs would have been impossible. Accordingly, he would have been stuck at the bottom and at risk of being seriously embarrassed. Then, as now, he would have found himself railing against thoughtless restaurateurs and the their public inconveniences.

That said, and without more ado, he was on his way back down to the restaurant. As he left he said,  “With my new hip I feel like a young man again – it’s wonderful!” To which I shouted back that I too had a similar experience recently, but by that time he was gone.

In my case the sense of rejuvenation was not at the hands of an orthopaedic surgeon, nor did it follow something grand like the insertion of a pacemaker. My story, which started in earnest around a decade ago, relates to teeth.

There are many everyday activities that are taken for granted but which are both essential and a real joy. Amongst these is eating, which over the years has given me enormous pleasure. But to appreciate fully the taste and texture of food one needs an effective set of teeth that allow one not just to munch generally but to enjoy biting into, for example, a crusty baguette, a steak or a firm fresh apple, or to nibble away at the bone of a chop searching out the tasty bits that the knife and fork have left behind. But over the years my teeth became increasingly frail and throughout most of my sixties those one-time normal pleasures were no longer feasible.

The problem started in my youth; first after a serious altercation with a cricket bat and later when playing rugby, where the damage was done by a set of studs. With more wear and tear plus the passage of time and a degree of neglect, my dentition gradually deteriorated and my teeth became wobbly, painful or lost. Much rearguard action was needed but despite fillings, crowns, bridges and later a dental plate, downing certain foods was still an insurmountable challenge with much of the joy of eating now lost.

The idea of limiting myself to soft, and often less tasty, foods for the rest of my life seemed wrong so I turned to a solution I once saw as unthinkable – implants. And last week, eight months after the decision was made, I was ready to see if my new teeth were fit for purpose. Throughout the many dental visits with their X rays, photos, drillings and fittings (and payments) my mind was fixed firmly on one thing, not on having a new smile, but once again sitting eating a really crusty baguette.

At the bakery I ordered a sandwich made of just such a baguette filled with ham, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. Eating started with some hesitation, beginning at one end and working my way along, savouring all as I went. The noise, the feeling on the gums, and then the taste were a dream come true. Just wonderful. The experiment was a success. After years of self-imposed restraint I was free to enjoy the tastes of yesteryear.

Like the man on the stairs with his new hip, I felt like am a man reborn. What joy!

6 comments on “Life after teeth
  1. Annie Trébern says:

    Dear Joe,
    Thank you thank you! You’re very encouraging! My Dentist told me that implants would cost me the price of a car. I said that I could always sell a car, while the implants… and she justifiably pointed out that I couldn’t eat a sandwich with a car. So if you promise me that I will once again be able to crack crabs’ legs with my teeth, and nuts, and stuff myself with toffees, then we can hold a smile contest soon!

  2. Graham Dukes says:

    Elisabet and I were delighted by your “Life After Teeth”.
    In our forthcoming book on The History of Eating we have an Essay on the eating process, and if you don’t mind we would like to quote several of your sentences – with full acknowledgement!


  3. Guillemette Cox says:

    I can see why a new smile is not a priority for you but think of your close ones and the not so close ones who I am sure will appreciate your now even more frequent ” new smile” especially after your tasty crusty kneebly etc food.

    • Andrew says:

      Implants have also benefited me greatly, but they cost a lot.
      To pervert a proverb, beggars can’t be chewers

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