Mandan News

Brian L. Gray: Sinking my teeth into changes

I get sentimental over the stupidest of things.

I recently went to a dentist for the first time in over nine years. Don’t judge me. I know you’ve got faults too. I waited this long for one simple reason – I was broke. I last went in for a checkup while in college, and was struggling and had no money. After college I struggled some more, was still broke and now in debt, so I wasn’t going to put myself further in the financial hole just so I could brag that my mouth is healthy because a dentist made my gums bleed.

Also, during my last checkup I received great news, something I heard for the first time ever, which was music to my ears – “Brian, you have no cavities.” I didn’t expect that outcome, but figured I was doing something right, so I told myself to just keep doing what I was doing and I wouldn’t need to deal with torture in a dentist’s chair for a while.

I also waited for the right dentist to take care of a tooth of mine that had been knocked out in second grade by a baseball I wasn’t able to catch. Instead, it caught me in the face and popped out my left front tooth. My dentist at the time attached the thing back into my mouth, where it remains today. In the last few years I’ve been searching for the right place to go that could provide me with options to replace the tooth. I also wanted a dentist who exercises cutting edge practices, who’s proactive and solves problems before they arise. And I found just the right person. I won’t mention his name because, as he has told me, he is a private practice. I’ll respect his wishes.

Now I have a dental plan, and a bit of money in my pocket, so this was a good time to go. I’m happy to say that I’m not in bad shape, considering the long absence. Even after years of exposure to some of our teeth’s worst stainers, including tea, coffee, nicotine, and wine – which I refer to as the four food groups – I didn’t do too bad.

I decided that I’d not only take care of my dead tooth, but to whiten all my teeth as well. I didn’t think this would be a hard decision, as I don’t exactly have the best teeth in the world. But stained teeth are a part of my identity, something my ancestors have passed onto me. They are a part of my heritage. I’d hate to lose that, as whitening them will only mask the yellowed Gray pride that runs through my molar nerves.

I’ve also never been a fan of people who make drastic physical changes to themselves, ones that are obviously not in line with the natural progression of aging, from plastic surgery to Botox injections to enhancements of certain body parts, for no other reason than to combat their own self-induced insecurities. I find it psychotic, and I know they don’t kid anyone with their lies. I’m not moving in that direction – although I’m peeking at it. My teeth, I feel, will merely be my one little white lie.

Besides, it’s only teeth. I’ve almost hit the halfway point before having to wear dentures anyway. And this isn’t Great Britain. We’re Americans. We pride ourselves on presentation. The surface is meant to be an extension of what’s inside, and it should go without saying that if you’re beautiful on the outside, you’re beautiful inside as well. Who needs substance when you’ve got style?

Yes, we have issues. Life is one series of issues after another. Besides, I gotta face the truth – I ain’t getting any younger. I might as well keep myself in check now that I’m in my thirties, as things are only destined to go downhill from here on out. As the comedian Marc Maron once said, when you hit this age, your life is pretty much about decay management.

I do feel a tinge of regret about this decision to whiten my teeth, but I consider that my parents have both done laser surgery on their eyes to alter their genetics of bad vision. This isn’t much different. And while this may slightly alter my appearance, I find solace in the fact that I won’t be changing the rest of my body, and keep true my characteristics that really matter – attitude, compassion, humility… but I’m sure that’s exactly what those psychotic people say too, as they go in for their ninth nose job.

And once my dental work is taken care of, and my smile is as white as the God-forsaken snow that currently envelops us, I’ll be ready to take on my next adventure, something else I haven’t faced in almost in a decade – the doctor.