This one time, at the periodontist.

I hate going to the dentist.

When I was 12, I had a pretty nasty car accident. One of the less serious injuries was some damage to a few of my front teeth. After that accident, no matter what any dentist did, I would have reoccurring infections. But like, nasty ones, guys. It was gross. Anyway, eventually a root canal was decided upon for the tooth that was giving the most trouble, and only after drugging me up verrrrry nicely (think drooling and giggling at the ceiling), were they able to perform the procedure.

The tooth was fine after that – no pain anymore of course, and it remained white for a good while, but then it started to turn yellow. Not bright sunshiney yellow, but a browny/yellowy colour that made it look as if that tooth was secretly smoking 40 cigarettes while I was sleeping.

I know this is kind of a gross story but bear with me.

Eventually I stopped smiling. And when I couldn’t help it, or if I laughed (I laugh a lot), I would cover my mouth in the hopes that no one would notice. When I hit my twenties, I stopped caring as much, but I was still very self-conscious about it and it was one of the main reasons I hated most photos of myself. If there were any photos I did like, I would literally Photoshop that tooth to be whiter. Silly, hey?

But then I met Doctor Howard Gluckman through a very good friend of mine. Howard is a periodontist in Cape Town and he is just incredible. When I first went to his rooms, I was super nervous and had visions of a crazy man in a mask with needles in each hand and a high-pitched voice that would make my teeth tremble. However, Howard has a special talent for making his patients feel at ease and he certainly doesn’t have a high-pitched voice. The only thing ‘wrong’ with him is if you look into his eyes for too long, it’s basically guaranteed you’re going to cry and want to spill out all your life’s problems and insecurities.

After a few consultations, Howard told me that I needed an implant. Now, when I think of the word ‘implant’, I think of breasts (don’t you?). I’m quite ample in that department though, so after imagining myself with DD boobs (scary, scary picture), I realised he was talking about my tooth. He advised that twice a year, at The Implant Clinic, he chooses someone who needs an implant and performs the surgery while other doctors watch the whole thing in another room. I don’t understand it fully, but I think ‘new’ (safe) techniques are used so the other doctors can learn about them and ask any questions they like.

This was an amazing opportunity for me, especially as a surgery like this can cost a small fortune, and so after getting over the idea that strangers would see areas of my mouth that even I haven’t seen (and don’t want to see), I was very excited and couldn’t wait to see the results.

But that was months away. And in the meantime, the tooth had deteriorated so much that some of it had come off. I blame a plum. I literally just bit into a bloody plum and next thing I knew, half my tooth was missing. When I saw Howard, he immediately said ‘we’ll fix that right up for you, sweetheart’, and in less than 20 minutes, he had filled in the tooth. When I looked in the mirror, I cried (something Howard must have been used to by then).

That was a temporary solution – we were still waiting for the implant surgery, but I am eternally grateful to him that I didn’t have to walk around with a dodgy tooth for 6 months. I know I may sound vain, but it was a real issue for me.

When the day of the surgery finally came, I was no longer nervous…until I arrived at the rooms and saw what initially looked like hundreds of people who would be watching the procedure. But again, Howard put me at ease and introduced me to a fabulous little drug called Ketamine. After that, everything was groovy, yo. I didn’t feel a thing, and the whole experience was actually rather pleasant. Every now and then, when I heard words like ‘ground bone’ and ‘soft tissue transplant’, I wondered what the hell I was doing there…and when I saw the metal screw thingy that would be going into my mouth I quickly calculated about 27 different escape plans, but it took less than an hour and the drugs I was given insured that my body remained still and serene.

When I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t bloody believe it. I was still too high to have any normal kind of emotional reaction, but if I could, I probably would have bawled my eyes out. The difference was incredible.

The recovery was a bit tough as there was quite a bit of pain and the stitches in my mouth made everything feel tight, but after 10 days they were taken out and I felt much, much better. It’s not over yet – I am seeing Howard again in a few weeks, but quite simply, he has changed my life.

I no longer cover my mouth when I smile. I don’t keep my lips closed – I let my smile explode for all to see. When I laugh, I laugh genuinely and wholeheartedly, with no fear of being looked at. When someone wants to take a photo, after the momentary I AM GOING TO KILL YOU BECAUSE I HATE PHOTOS OF MYSELF YOU FOOL, I smile widely without a care in the world. Except for my double chin of course.

This is all thanks to Howard and his team. He is professional, friendly, caring, and one of the best in his field.

If I can get copies of the before and after photos they took (the ones where there’s plastic wedge-type things in my mouth and I look like a horse), I will post them here so that you can actually see what I am talking about.

Moral of the story: Look after your teeth, kids. And try your hardest not to get into any car accidents.