All My Ancestors

25 June 2008

Dental Health: Family Adventures and Memories

Filed under: AnceStories Prompts, Dad, Perryton, Texas by allmyanc

This post is written in respnse to Miriam Midkiff’s prompt at her AnceStories2 site.

I have bad teeth.

Who knows why?  My dad had terrible teeth–he said they were “chalky.”  Supposedly he didn’t assimilate calcium.  I don’t know who made that diagnosis but I do know he didn’t have good teeth.  He had dentures fairly early.  I don’t know if he went to the dentist as a child, but I doubt it.  He was one of 8 children, born in 1929, and reared in a fairly rural area.  I just don’t think he would have been taken to a dentist–there may not have even been one there.  (Isn’t it amazing what you don’t know about your own parents and hometown once you start this sort of a project?)

I do remember being taken to the dentist as a child.  I guess somehow my mom got the word that it was important–I happen to know her own mother didn’t go until she was well into her 70s.  And then the dentist pulled the wrong tooth!  I’m pretty sure she didn’t go back.  My aunt, another daughter of my grandmother who didn’t go to the dentist until she was 70+, was also an adult before she went to the dentist.  When he told her to spit, she didn’t realize she needed to lean over the little bowl at the side.  I’m sure that dentist wondered where this rube had come from.  My mom inherited her own mother’s good teeth but she didn’t pass them down to me. 

I do remember Mom taking my brother and I to the dentist’s office–it was across the street from the library–probably my most important landmark in my hometown.  I really don’t remember anything about the visit except that the dentist was a youngish family man, new to town, and his name was Kelso.  This would have been in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  I started school in 1956, so maybe I went as a part of getting ready for school, though I’m not all that sure he was there that early.  Perryton was the sort of place where everyone knew everyone else–there were generations of families there and of course the “new dentist” was a novelty in town.

This prompt has been rolling around in my head since I first read it.  I had to think long and hard about how I wanted to address this posting.  The difficult part is that what I remember most about my dental history is that Dr. Kelso and his entire family–his wife and their two children–were killed in a plane crash.  I had somewhere in my memory that it happened during a holiday but I had no idea of a precise date. 

I started looking to see what I could find to document my faint memories.  Imagine my surprise when I found the 4 Kelso death certificates indexed as 27 November 1963 for the date of death–just 4 days after the JFK assassination.  No wonder the memory from that time is blurred and dark.  I was in the 7th grade in November 1963,  12 years old going on 13.  

I didn’t go back to the dentist until I was in high school, by which time I had 16 cavities!  I remember the dentist sounding pretty shocked when he delivered that news–as was I.  He filled those teeth, 4 at a time, over the next few months.  I ended up with a mouth full of silver fillings.  Shortly after that, I had to have my wisdom teeth out.  That same dentist took them out, two at a time, the first pair while I was still in high school and the last two after I was in college.  (As I recall, the reason mom didn’t take me there to begin with was that he was an older practitioner and had a reputation for being kind of rough.  But he did so much to preserve my teeth, I’ve always been grateful.  I don’t remember him being hard on my mouth–I think I had a fairly realistic understanding that filling 16 cavities wasn’t going to be a cake-walk.  I’d already been on too many of those.)  I remember steeling myself for having my wisdom teeth pulled, but it really wasn’t bad.  I begged my mom to let me go out the evening after I’d had the first 2 removed–I think I won that one and don’t remember any ill effects.

As it happens, I went to the dentist today and he reminded me that I have one more of those “old silver fillings.”  I started going to my current dentist, whom I love, in the mid 1980s–he was fresh out of dental school and he was amazed that those fillings from 1967 or so were still in there and doing as well as they were.  The worst tooth, one of my molars, which ended up with more filling than tooth, plus 3 others, now have crowns.  And there was a root canal or two along the way.  But one of those fillings, now 40+ years old, is still serving the purpose. 

I don’t mind going to the dentist–I guess I just made up my mind that I was going to spend lots of time in the dental chair and I might as well deal with it.  Nothing will ever be as bad as going to that dentist who found 16 cavities.  My dental hygienist today asked me if I drank coffee, and if I flossed.  I do drink coffee–lots of it, so my teeth show it.  And I try to floss but my crowns are so tight it usually breaks the floss.  So I brush religiously and use tartar control toothpaste and do pretty well.  I haven’t had a cavitiy in years–course, it’s sort of difficult to get cavities in those crowns.  Thank goodness.





1 Comment »

One Response to “Dental Health: Family Adventures and Memories”

  1. Deb,
    Your Aunt Katie at age 85 still has all of her teeth. She had her first filling at age 36. I think the water in the part of the world where she (and you) grew up had some good natural floride in it! We started going to the dentest when I was about 7. I never had a filling until I was 12 and the second one at age 30. The next 30 years have brought more fillings and one extraction. But I still have the first silver filling I got at 12. It still works so why change it? So may be there is something to say about genes, the water?

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