Mike Buzzelli

Tooth tales

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A few short months ago, I had a wild sitcom moment in my life. I lost my front tooth. It was pretty traumatic. I couldn’t say the letter F, which, ironically, is the first letter I spoke when I lost the tooth.


Actually, I lost it twice. First on a trip to Seven Springs, and then a year later the crown came out at a party. The second time, I lost an additional piece of the original tooth and now needed more extensive work to keep the crown in.


I had an appointment to get the permanent crown on a cold Thursday morning in February. Wednesday night, my friend Brian asked me to go to the North Side Elks Club to hear the Banjo Players. If you’re not familiar, a roving gang of banjo players takes to the Elks Club stage and plays a zillion old songs.


“Hello my baby! Hello my honey. Hello my ragtime girl!”


Before I went, I was scraping ice off my car. Somehow, I lost my temporary crown. I thought, “Well. I’ll just be hanging with Brian. Most of the banjo players probably don’t have a lot of their original teeth. It’ll be fine.”


I was one of the first people to arrive at the Elks Club that night. Then, Brian walked in with our friend Missy. I didn’t know she was coming. I stood up, covered my mouth and said, “I have to leave!”


It was too appalling to face two people without my front tooth. I looked like a hillbilly. Not even the Beverly Hills kind; even the Clampetts had all of their teeth!


With my hand over my mouth, I explained my situation. “Don’t laugh, but my temporary crown came out and I have no front tooth.” Of course, when I said it, I sounded like Gopher from Winnie the Pooh, the one who whistles when he talks. They immediately laughed. Never start a sentence with “Don’t laugh.” Most people will anyway.


Brian couldn’t hold it in. He said, “It gets worse! I invited the girls from Whirl Magazine to come join us.”


I panicked. Whirl Magazine is mostly pictures of beautiful people at fun events. I didn’t want to be in the magazine looking like a character from “Deliverance.”


At one point, I grafted a Chiclet (Orbit Winterfresh, actually) to the remaining stub of a tooth. Yes, I felt like Lucy Ricardo trying to hide her face from William Holden. If the gum didn’t have fluorescent blue specks, I would have gotten away with it.


All night, I tried not to smile, which was nearly impossible for two reasons. Missy and Brian are two of the funniest people I know, and they are both pretty well known in Pittsburgh. A crowd gathered at our table.


When I laughed, I covered my mouth like a Japanese schoolgirl. When I spoke, I put the menu in front of my face. Finally, I relented and spoke normally. I laughed and joked and even danced with Missy in front of the crowd. Did I mention there was cheap beer?


At the end of the night, I was talking about my dental appointment.


And someone said, “What are you going to the dentist for?” I was flabbergasted.


I responded with, “This,” and I showed the gaping hole in my smile. None of the others had noticed. I looked to Brian and Missy and they burst into laughter. Sometimes, you can spend a whole evening being self-conscious when, maybe, you should just relax and have fun like everyone else.


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