Your Teeth: New and Improved

Whenever I go to the dentist and he tells me to open wide, I ask him the same question: "Do you see it?"

"See what?" he counters.

"The Porsche."

A few seconds pass before he remembers my line from the last time and slowly nods, smiling in a way that hints at a combination of compassion and smugness (my loss is his gain, after all).

Teeth. They're expensive. Mine sure are. If I took all the money spent on various procedures over the years—orthodontia, fillings, wisdom teeth extractions, root canals, crowns, repairs and now, dental implants—I could have owned my dream car.

But it's not to be.

And if someone had told me 20 years ago that we could "grow" artificial teeth, I would have told them they were dreaming. But here am I, the lucky(?) recipient of yet another dental implant—my third, to be exact. People get old, teeth get old, and my old, weakened tooth cracked and needed to be extracted.

Enter a new and improved version (and my plea to be kind to your teeth).

They're pretty amazing, these implants. The procedure replaces damaged or missing teeth with artificial ones that can look and function almost like the real things. The implant, made of titanium, is surgically placed in your jawbone, eventually fusing to function like a real tooth, where it serves as the root of a missing tooth. It's a welcome alternative to bridgework or dentures, which can shift, make noise and require everyday maintenance.

Dental implants are time-consuming, because they are done in stages and involve several procedures. The success or timing (or both) is dependent, too, on the general condition and health of your bone, since it has to be vital enough to heal tightly around the implant (if it's not, you may need a bone grafting procedure first). Implants are expensive and painful at first, but in the end, if all goes well, you end up with something resembling and acting as close to a real tooth as you can get. You can read more detail about the procedure here.

Sound exhausting? Granted, there are a lot of steps and care involved. But then I think back to some pretty vivid childhood memories of sleeping at my grandparents' house and waking each morning to the sight of false teeth floating in plastic bowls of bluish antiseptic-smelling liquid. I always worried I'd accidentally knock those bowls over, sending the choppers crashing to the floor as I brushed my own (then-healthy) teeth. Though those false teeth never did get knocked over, who would think that years later, my own would get knocked out … and then replaced with titanium wonders?

By the way, the day I came home from my dental surgery, there was a nice surprise waiting for me (no, not flowers from my dentist). The folks at Garden Lites sent me a boxful of delicious frozen vegetable soufflés to sample. I loved the serendipitous timing of it all, since I could barely chew and had to be on a soft diet for an indefinite time. I was thrilled that despite not being able to enjoy my nightly salads, I could at least get my share of veggies. I popped the small, individually sized butternut squash soufflé into the microwave and happily indulged, able to scarf down some valuable nutrients despite the fact my mouth was pretty much off-limits.

The soufflés come in nine gluten-free, vegetarian and Kosher varieties, among them pizza, broccoli and roasted vegetable. They're 200 calories or less for the entire soufflé and are perfect for a light meal or hearty snack.

Or as a way to end the day in a nicer way than you started it.

You might also want to read:
An overview of oral health
Perimenopause and your teeth

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