28 March, 2005


A frequent (perhaps the most frequent, if such things can be metered) plot of dreams is that one's teeth, usually the canines, are falling out. This is rather an alarming thing to dream, since teeth are precious but rather unappreciated things, and losing those sorts of treasures is always doubly shocking (one for the loss, and one for the discovery that you give a shit). Like most dreams, this one has been turned every which way, interpreted, and "understood" a hundred times over. You can satisfy yourself as to the enormous variety of explication. The origin is not quite so esoteric as most of these explanations, but still quite satisfying: the dream is a result of the loosening of certain maxillary tendons around the canines, usually as a result of impending or current illness. Thus, the dream may serve as an augur, which I think rather neatly restores some of the magic taken away by its mundane physiological basis.

When I first began to drift up out of my sub-basement of sleep (I just got some new bedsheets, crimson, and had quite a comfortable night), I thought that this was my dream; I had, after all, just recovered from illness. But then I was fully awake, and my tongue was still tracing out the unfamiliar space where my incisor should have been, and I was clutching something small and hard in the fingers of my right hand.

This isn't as alarming as it sounds at first; I've had a fake crown on my right incisor since the fourth grade (when I cracked the lower half off by whacking it against the floor). I'm not really sure how my tooth ended up in my hand; maybe I plucked it out of my mouth in my sleep, and knew enough to hold on to it. Lucky that I did. After my initial exclamation ("Oh, shit!") and vague panic, I put it on the bedstand and went back to sleep. I had been meaning to see the dentist anyway.

In the morning I called Harvard University Health Services to find out what sort of dental coverage I actually had. Turns out my Blue Cross coverage only extends to certain kinds of dental care. Specifically, emergencies. Well, this was an emergency, I thought. But only emergencies relating to previously undamaged and unmodified teeth. So my crown falling off didn't count. Neither would someone's filling coming out, I assume. Ouch.

What kind of evil, rat-fucking, fanged, pointy-bearded sadist writes such a dental plan? I'd like to give him (or her) a dental emergency relating to previously undamaged and unmodified teeth.

So I sucked it up and paid for it. It wasn't so bad, actually. Because I had miraculously held on to my crown in my sleep, my dentist (Dr. Peter Goldstone) was able to reattach it relatively cheap.*

This is a rather small and harmless anecdote, and I'm blessed that my emergency was a comparatively minor dental one, rather than a serious medical one. But still I'm annoyed by the fact that the ostensible "greatest country in the world" is one in which medical care is so constrained by the finance. I'm sure thousands of other people in this town could tell a similar story without the light and fanciful ending.

* My dentist, incidentally, is some kind of virtuoso. I sat down, he stuck a mirror in my mouth briefly, peered at the crown, asked some off-hand questions, tapped some things, then began to rough up my tooth to reattach it. "I'm just creating a bevel, here," he explained, making deft little motions against my tooth/stump with his thingummy. Then, whack, some cement, some UV radiation to set it, a little sanding, some fine-tuning, and I was done. Less than ten minutes, all told, that I spent in that chair. Competence is really quite gorgeous.

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