A Familiar Smile

Reminder of a Familiar Smile

By Jeanne Piraino Sigler
Thursday Review Contributing Writer

I just got home from the dentist office. Not one of your run-of-the-mill check-ups or cleanings. No, this visit went on a long time. Way too long as far as I’m concerned. Seems as if I left out of the house as the sun was beginning to rise and got home and out of my shirt with the saliva-drenched collar just in time to prepare supper. As I said, way too long.

This was one of those special visits. When I had my dental cleaning a few weeks back, I was strongly advised it was time to replace the 23-year-old caps on my front teeth. I had avoided this for some time. “Is this really necessary?” I asked Dr. Nichols. The look on his face said it all. “We’ll make you pretty,” he answered, then added, “I promise.” “Make me an appointment.” I said.

For the next 16 days, I kept flashing a smile at myself, every time I passed a mirror. These pearly whites aren’t too bad, I’d think. Surely this could wait. Who was I fooling? The drilling, grinding, jabbing time had come, like it or not.

I drove nervously to the dental office, all the time imagining what my smile might evolve into. Okay, so my current one may not be perfect, but at least when I open my mouth to look inside, I know what to expect. Would my new smile resemble a row of Chiclets gum? Will people find themselves staring curiously at my face, inquiring, “What’s different about you?”

There were several opportunities to turn my car around in the 30 minutes it took me to get there. Rather, I kept a stiff upper lip (which incidentally wouldn’t stay that way for long) and walked through the door.

I was greeted warmly by the friendly crew and quickly whisked off to a waiting chair. “We’ll start with some impressions,” said Effie, Dr. Nichols trusty assistant. Oh joy. Just what I need first thing in the morning, to be gagged and pretend to not be bothered by it.

Effie carefully pressed the goo-filled receptacle into my mouth, repeating, “You’re doing very well, Mrs. Sigler.” “Who are you kidding?” I asked in muffled tones. “No, really,” she reiterated, “some of our patients even throw up when I do this.”

Next to enter my little chamber was Dr. Terry Nichols. “How we doing this morning?” he asked between bites of his donut. “This is going to be great,” he said. Washing the sugar from his fingertips and putting on his gloves, he added, “When we get all through, you’ll be so glad you did this.” There’s still time to escape, I thought.

Now came the fun part, well at least for the doc. With each buzz of the drill, he reminded me of how much he enjoyed this particular portion of the procedure. Taking a quick breath and suction, I blurted, “No turning back now, is there, Terry?” “Not a chance, Jeannè,” he replied, “now open wide.” The first 90 minutes passed and I was given a reprieve before we started on Round 2.

I made my way to the restroom and promised myself I would not look in the mirror, as I did not want particularly to see my ground down enamel nubs. Of course, as soon as my reflection was in plain sight, my curiosity got the best of me and I just had to get one little glimpse, however shocking.

At that moment, funny thing happened. I didn’t run out screaming. Nor did I lament over what I’d started. I kept staring at the space that now existed between my two front teeth, a space that that looked all too familiar. A space I looked at for many years, in the smile of somebody very dear to me, my father.

Growing up, I was continually told how much I favored my dad. As the years pass, however, I’m getting to look more like my mother. But for this small moment in time, mid-treatment, in a bathroom at a dentist office, I was Daddy’s little girl again. Just briefly, there was his smile again, a sight I’ve missed so much. I couldn’t keep from grinning despite the heavy numbness.

I returned to my chair and the team resumed their tasks. Suddenly two of Dr. Nichols’ five children came bursting through the door. His wife Rosa stopped by and the kids embraced their father. His daughter exclaimed, “I love you, Daddy.” He smiled widely and returned the endearment. Hold onto those precious moments, I thought.

Nine and half needles full of anesthetic and five soiled bibs later, they were ready to let me go home. As promised, the good doctor’s work is superb and well worth every dollar and hour spent. Not only did I get a new and prettier smile out of this deal, I got a glimpse at a loving daddy’s smile, both past as well as present.