When I was young, there was no "Old Fogey" to warn me about teeth.
Articles about what happens when people get old appeared, back then, in Reader's Digest and the Saturday Evening Post. I was reading the Sporting News and Mad Magazine (plus an occasional Playboy, truth be told).
So I missed the part about teeth.
I mentioned that to my son Michael, and he laughed. He told me about a great line in a movie. A character becomes an old man and discovers that, without teeth, one does not chew well. Without chewing, one does not enjoy eating. Without eating ... well, one does not get very much older, that's what.
Carrots, raw carrots, are at the root of this column.
Well, no. Teeth are at the root. But sliced raw carrots, a foodstuff my wife insists contain the elixir of youth, will, when chomped firmly, snap off a lower bicuspid at the gum line, if said bicuspid consists mostly of filling above the gum line.
Oh. Excuse me. It's no longer "filling." It is "restoration."
So, I said to the orthodontist who extracted what was left of the broken-off tooth, what do I do now?
My back teeth touch mostly air.
If an upper tooth and the corresponding lower tooth had been extracted, the solution would be simple, albeit expensive: Dental implants, metal posts inserted into the jawbone by a drilling device on loan from a Marcellus Shale site, then covered by tightly stretched gum tissue, then reopened after six months and, if no rejection has occurred, topped with dental crowns.
To get munch-the-food grips, some existing teeth will need to be pulled.
I am nearly 70 years old. I don't want to look like Brockway's water aquifer, with drilling rigs poking here and there.
So I resign myself to the blender. It is a good blender, a heavy-duty one. It can puree steak if need be. Is that my future? Sipping sirloin?
Once before, I did do that.
Back in 1962, in a six-man interfraternity football game, I made the mistake of angering a usually-gentle giant, a former All-State lineman, who sat beside me in German class (and benefited thereby), but who played for another fraternity.
In I rushed. Up came Joe's forearm. "Splat" went my jaw, and on went the wires, for six l-o-n-g weeks.
Guess what grows on the insides of one's teeth when one's jaws are clamped together by external wires? It was gruesome, and ghoulish. The ghouls were fraternity brothers who chortled when delicious foods arrived with students returning from weekend visits with Moms. Onto plates went their portions. Into the blender went Denny's portions. Ever eaten pork mush? Try bacon syrup.
There are, of course, "choppers." To date, I don't need them up front, though if an existing bridge weakens ... let's not think about that.
Let's think about "partials," a plastic gizmo with fake teeth attached. That provides only about 30 percent of the chewing power of real teeth, I am told. But partial plates are, by comparison with implants, inexpensive and modifiable; teeth can be added.
Then, if and when other natural teeth wither and fail, the upper-to-lower gaps might align sufficiently to make implants feasible - though on a retirement income, I would have to sell 500,000 chicken eggs a year to afford implants, and we have just two dozen chickens, a mathematical impossibility.
The orthodontist suggests that as a possible course of action.
So there is a message here, one I never fully understood while still in the vigor of youth, pursuing the vigor of youthesses, among other pursuits.
The message was delivered in the movie Mike described, after the old person turned young person had rediscovered the joys of chewing food. The oldster had one item of advice for all young people:
Yes, floss every day. Also, avoid broken bones. Those snapped bones that heal quickly at age 17 ache painfully at age 67. Ditch the canned soft drinks. Diabetes doesn't just require the use of needles. It also makes hands and feet feel like hot coals had been placed on them. Don't smoke, or chew. You, too, can keep your teeth.
Would I have respected the message if it had been presented to me when I was younger? Probably not, if it had been in a newspaper column or in a Reader's Digest article.
But if an uncle had opened wide, and showed me the ruined cavernous expanse of what had been a full mouth, then explained the pain involved in getting gums toughened enough to handle chewing without ill-fitting dentures or budget-busting implants ... I don't know.
But it's worth the effort.
Hey, Grandson ... c'mere. Shine that flashlight right on Grandpa's moustache, then get really close. Grandpa wants to show you something when I open my mouth! See? Almost nothing left. That's gonna be you.
Or, you can floss. You'll still get old, but chewably so.
Denny Bonavita is the editor and publisher of McLean Publishing Co. in west-central Pennsylvania, including the Courier-Express in DuBois.