Ha o Hipparu

My translation/conjugation of the title may be not be entirely correct, but it’s all I know how to say regarding this subject. Ha (歯) is “tooth”, Hipparu (引っ張る) is “to pull”.

The sad saga of my bottom-right-first-molar, Borifimo (say it in your head with a bad Italian accent, like Bellissimo!, but not), began approximately 10 years ago. I was 15 and just had my braces taken off. Poor Borifimo had been imprisoned by that horrible metal band that supports the rest of your braces, which had apparently hidden a cavity for however many years those braces were on.

I had to have a root canal. As a 15 year old I had no idea what a root canal even was. But I endured the pain, got Borifimo fitted with a fancy porcelain crown, and went about my merry teenage life.

10 years, a high-school graduation, college graduation, and a move across the planet later, it was September of 2016 and I was in excruciating pain. The kind where you can’t sleep for 3 nights, and finally end up using a bag of frozen green beans as a pillow because that’s the only thing that helps. I fantasized about ripping Borifimo out myself with a pair of Daiso pliers.

The Japanese dentist I went to told me I’d probably have to get Borifimo taken out, but gave me some antibiotics to calm him down in the meantime while I made a decision. Borifimo shut up for the remainder of the year.

Alas, the pain went away but the problem did not. During my winter vacation in America, my family dentist determined that Borifimo had to be done away with, or I’d likely wind up in a hospital when the infection flared up again. So I bit the bullet and said Sayonara to Borifimo, and returned to Japan in the new year with a gaping hole in my mouth.

Truthfully the space once occupied by dearly departed Borifimo isn’t visible to anyone unless I purposely show it off. But feeling the emptiness and simply just knowing it’s there is distressing. Not to mention trying to take care of it during the healing process, which involves maintaining a mostly soft-foods diet.  Last week’s kyuushoku was more or less inedible…rice, no. Salad with sesame seeds, no. Soup with little pieces of egg that kept finding their way into the hole in my jaw, no. Each day gets little easier, but it’s a largely unpleasant experience.

Possibly the only thing worse than having the tooth extracted is the process of getting it replaced. Not only is it expensive, but it’s quite an involved procedure that could include bone-grafting, little titanium screws that have to fuse with the jaw, and many many months of waiting and healing. Oh, and it’s also time-sensitive, because Borifimo’s neighboring teeth might not be so keen on waiting for a replacement, and might start moving around in there to compensate for their missing comrade.

Image result for missing teeth

Now that the wound is healing nicely, the discomfort has lessened. However, the cultural difference in tooth care and appearance has become ever more apparent to me in the past few weeks. Western standards for what is considered a “nice smile”, at the most basic level, means 1) your teeth are reasonably white and 2)reasonably straight and 3)you have ALL YOUR TEETH. The most obvious problem with my lack thereof is difficulty eating (I really love food, and being restricted from it is probably more painful than actually getting the tooth pulled out). But when presented with the costs of having the tooth replaced, I find my cultural upbringing to play a more prominent role in my decisions than I expected. If I didn’t need Borifimo replaced, I still would replace him. The thought of having a hole there for any longer than the necessary healing time is not only unacceptable, but quite repulsive to me.

On the odd occasion that I have a dream, it usually involves some or all of my teeth crumbling out of my head. Most dream analysis would suggest that this represents a feeling of helplessness or lack of control in life…which, while often accurate in regards to me, is  less believable than the fact that after 10 years of putting up with Borifimo’s drama, the cursed cuspid continues to haunt me in my sleep from beyond the tooth grave.