I have always considered visiting a dentist a luxury. I simply don’t understand why I have to pay hundreds of dollars every 6 months for a stranger to prod my teeth up and down which I do every morning anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I truly value dentists and when I have a problem I go to a dentist – I just don’t go for check ups. If it isn’t broke, I don’t fix it. My brother Sadiq and I spent a good part of our childhood on the dentist’s chair in Living Springs, Warri, and because the dentist was our neighbour, she came over once in a while to check whether we were being “good kids” i.e. Sadiq was not chewing his sweets and I was not grinding my teeth.
I still do that by the way! Apparently its bruxism and it’s a symptom for an underlying mental condition. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that I’m not normal but at the same time I refuse to believe I have a mental condition. I simply put it as; my teeth like to chew food and when there is no food, they chew themselves!
Naturally, we don’t like visiting the dentist. Besides some of my good friends now are dentists or dentistry students, I just go to them if I have any questions. Although I’ve noticed they don’t like it when I open my mouth and go “Hey can you check this out for me?” over the dinner table. Point taken.
About 2 months ago I chipped one of my premolars because I tried to use my teeth to open a capped bottle. (Why? Because it’s not everyday I come across Vitamalt and when I do, the last thing on my mind is finding an opener. I just want to embrace my razz Naijaness and act like the waffi girl that I know I am). Anyways, I didn’t think it was a big deal. Sure my tooth broke, I can live with that, right?
Yesterday I was shopping in a particular northern suburb when I noticed a sign: “Something something dental surgery: Join now and save 70% on registration fees” and suddenly I felt guilty. I had to get that chipped tooth checked out. So I went to the receptionist and took a form.
There I was, an innocent woman sitting in the foyer, trying ever so hard to fill out her membership form on a wonky clipboard. In my ear I had my beloved Hamish and Andy collector’s edition that I had specially podcast the night before to entertain and distract me from the excruciating heat of the Aussie summer.
Suddenly there was a shadow looming over my head and within a split second I felt two hands grab my face and pull it up, forcing me to stand up or risk losing my head! I looked up and I see this astute looking woman in a white lab coat peering into my mouth!
“Hey! Excuse me?”
“I’m sorry, it’s just that I’ve never seen anything like this!”
“What? You’ve never seen teeth before?” In my mind I’m like what kind of a dentist are you?
“No, your diastema. I’ve never seen one like this before.”
“Can I just…see…just…open your mouth a little more.” Against my better judgment I did the “Ha” and this woman got all excited. “Wow! Your teeth; you’ve got…”
“…spaces between every single tooth? Yeah I know that.”
“Where are you from?”
“Oh my God!”
“I read a report about Nigerians and gapped teeth I just never knew I’d meet one.”
“Yes! Is it true that Nigerians consider women with gapped teeth more attractive? Do you get a lot of attention?
“Errr…not more than the average person. Except, of course when I’m making a complete fool of myself – which is often.”
This woman kept going on and on about how she’s been an orthodontist for years and how she’s impressed by my teeth and she wants to have experience with all sorts of different teeth blah blah blah! I may have slept off during the conversation until I heard:
“Have you ever considered getting your teeth fixed?”
“Fixed? I don’t consider having gapped teeth a problem.”
“No, no, I know, I mean don’t you want to smile with confidence?”
“I like the way I smile and I don’t have confidence issues.”
“You haven’t smiled since we started this conversation.”
“Well, you haven’t exactly given me a reason to, have you?”
“Here’s a reason; I’ll cut you a good deal if you let me fix your teeth.”
“No, thank you.”
“Not many people want to live with a 4mm space between their teeth. You’ve got an abnormality.” (Way to convince me, weird dentist!)
“No, I don’t.”
“I’m offering you cheap orthodontic treatment.”
I thought to myself – This woman is really weird! This so wasn’t worth the 70% off! “You know what? I just realised I’m in a hurry, I have to go.”
“What about your membership form?” The receptionist called after me.
“I’ll fax it to you,” I yelled rushing out.
“Let me at least take a picture…”
I was out of there as fast as my legs and shoes would carry me.
So I lied. I don’t have a fax machine and I had no intention of returning – ever! What would you do if you were in my shoes? This woman was obsessed with my teeth! There’s a fine line between passion and obsession and this woman was so over it she was encroaching serial killer territory. No way I’ll let myself be alone with that woman in a confined room with all sorts of tools! Who knows, maybe she’ll saw my head off and have it floating in a jar in her office! I’ll go find myself another dentist, one that wouldn’t auction my teeth at the International Weird Orthodontists’ Conference.
Okay, maybe my spaced teeth are a bit weirder than the average spaced teeth, but that’s only because I have small teeth and apparently “a big jaw”. They’re like everyone else’s just with space in between. You can’t force cosmetic surgery on a person! It’s not like I have a set of kachakawra! Or even Amy Winehouse teeth! Who cares anyway? I don’t have a problem with it, why should she? It was hard enough fighting against braces, crowns and veneers with my parents during my teen years and now this?
Can’t I be comfortable with looking a certain way? Must everyone have prissy “perfect” teeth? Define perfect anyway. What makes closed teeth more perfect than spaced out ones?
My diastema is the one I have in common with both my maternal grandpa and my paternal grandma. My children are probably going to have it too! And if I can’t continue the Bukar name, I can at least continue the Bukar teeth, right?
I don’t care what anyone thinks, I shall flash my spaced out pearly whites proudly! In fact, here’s one for the road!
Lots of Love
Fatima "Circus Freak" Bukar