Dreams of Teeth

January 18, 2012 § 1 Comment

I have to get a tooth filled and I am terrified. I might as well be eight years old. It’ll be okay, the dentist says, his hands deep in my mouth. It is an upper tooth and I hear the drill amplified through my skull. I take deep yoga breaths the best I can with my mouth propped open. I clench the armrests. “Relax,” the dentist says. “It’s just a tiny cavity.” Later, I brag to Jeff that the dentist finds my teeth beautiful. The hygienist agrees, I tell him. I unload the loot of miniature toothpaste, floss, and an embossed toothbrush from my purse with a little flourish. “They say that to everybody, “ Jeff says. My half numb smile droops.

I have a little bit of an obsession with teeth, but I know I’m not the only one. Your teeth represent how you take care of yourself, my sister says. Losing teeth, according to the dream interpretation web sites I check, is the most common anxiety dream. Apparently, these dreams mean you fear getting old or being embarrassed. Probably both. And then, the part I can’t get over: teeth identify you after death, long after fingerprints have turned to dust.

I have a Ziploc baggie full of human teeth on my dresser. They are various sizes, mixed together, from each of my boys at different ages. I don’t know what to do with them; I just know I can’t throw them away. How could I get rid of baby teeth, even though they’re supposed to be disposable? There are more teeth on the way, too. My youngest has only lost eight teeth, while his friends have lost all twenty. He worries.

“Your teeth like your mouth, “ I say.

“But I’ll have these teeth when I’m fifty!” he says.

“Good,” I say. “You have nice large teeth.” I learned this careful wording from a friend years ago. It makes my son and me smile, for different reasons. His nice large teeth have a gap—who doesn’t love a gap?—in the middle. Once, when he ran into a metal pole at recess, he said, “I feel my heart in my teeth.” This was so true, a poet friend wanted to steal it. I decide to keep the teeth in a nicer bag.

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§ One Response to Dreams of Teeth

  • Loretta says:

    Those teeth *do* belong in a nicer bag. Respect the teeth.

    Also. Fwiw. The reason both you and Jeff are told that you have beautiful teeth is because you both do. The dentists do NOT say that to everybody.

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