Wednesday, 20 October, 2021

With the Wind

Tooth Fairy and Teething

Tulip Chowdhury

Our life stories may have an exciting chapter written on teething and tooth fairies. Our dental problems can lead to severe health complications unless checked on time. On the other hand, the tooth fairy of childhood and the gifts could continue beyond the early years. The loved ones who lose teeth upon aging deserve prizes in appreciation for their years with us. While we respect and uphold their dignity, we can add a touch of humor to the aging process by hosting family gatherings. The tooth fairies, too, can grow old with the people.

When it comes to a baby tooth, we can predict an approximate age for teething to begin for a baby, but we cannot put a mark on the calendar. Every human body functions differently, and our mental and physical growth do not march side by side. Our doctors cannot give an exact date or time of its arrival on the gums either. The baby may be fretful, the gums painful with milky white traces of the new teeth. Then overnight, the baby has their first teeth. Mothers love to add to the joyous occasion by introducing solid food and a party. And soon, their toothy smile is ready to steal your heart. Around six or seven, the kids start losing the baby teeth, and then we come to the tooth fairy chapters. The Dollar bill left by the fairy is like a million bucks to the child who gets it.

Growing up in Sylhet, Bangladesh, my village life had its myths of teething early. Back then, the western concept of tooth fairies was absent. Instead of keeping our lose teeth under the pillow, we put them in a mouse hole or planted them in the ground. The mouse hole was supposed to give the new tooth the sharpness and size of the mouse. Small teeth were a fashionable thing then. Once the teeth fell out, we had to keep our mouths closed when we were outside. The myth was that if a crow eyed your empty gum, it could mean never getting a tooth back. The poor crows were always the bad guys. When someone has two front teeth lost simultaneously, friends say, "Oh no! There is an ocean on your gums, and a ship would sail through it." The dentists are there to take care of your teeth, and it can happen any time of your life. But they are usually freaking pricy.

Let's step into adult years and the troubled dental chapters. Did you have your wisdom teeth? A positive answer would ascertain some wisdom one assumes. Karen, a friend, went to the dentist around fifty years of age and mentioned that she never had her wisdom teeth. The doctor replied, "You have four wisdom teeth."

Karen astonished by the revelation, asked, "But doctor wisdom teeth for people is supposed to be painful, I didn't feel a thing. They gave me no wisdom." On the other hand, Lily, a journalist, suffered from wisdom teeth aches so much that she had to have three of them pulled out.

The appearance of our teeth, their setting can make a massive difference to someone's face. In arranged marriages of the past, when the groom's side visits the girl's family, they may ask the girl to laugh to check on the teeth. Thank goodness the groom's side has a better sense and values the girl's personality above the looks. The advertisements for toothpaste carry the best examples of beautiful teeth. There are various stages of dental care advice the teeth: one mouth picture with bad teeth and the other sparkling and near perfect. It doesn't take someone long to realize that we lose the pleasure of eating without good, strong teeth. The dentists will tell you to be rigorous about dental hygiene. For many, though, when the teeth start giving troubles, we realize how we could have taken better care of them. When tending uneven teeth, we could have teeth crowned with gold, silver in the old days. There are stories of thieves breaking into graves to steal the gold tooth caps from dead bodies. The dental crowns of modern times are more with the ceramic, porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns, and others.

Stepping back on times, the 'bede' or the boat people back in times had good business taking worms out of troubling teeth in Bangladeshi villages. The Bengali local term for cavity was "Daate polka laga" ( worms in the teeth). The boat people tricked the illiterate villagers and their toothaches and took out wiggly white worms with a cow horn. It took decades for the villagers to learn that they were no actual worms inside their teeth cavity, and the worms came from the inside of the horns stored before the treatment began. 

Before the dental problems start, for many of us, there is the chapter of people having a sweet tooth, in other words loving sweet and sugary food. The caution to children to stay away from high sugar consumption for the sake of health has long-term implications: too much sugar is bad for health in many ways. A 'sugar- tooth' may sound sweet, but giving up sugar takes lots of patience once someone is into it. Sadly, when the teeth fall out with age, the tooth fairies are not there to leave money for old dears under the pillow. Perhaps it is high time we give gifts for people who lose teeth with old age, to thank them for thinking and taking for us when we could not do so for ourselves. We can keep our sense of wonder open, and wings unfold at every stage of life. As author Yehuda Berg had said, "As children, our imaginations are vibrant, and our hearts are open. We believe that the bad guy always loses and that the tooth fairy sneaks into our rooms at night to put money under our pillow. Everything amazes us, and we think anything is possible. We continuously experience life with a sense of newness and unbridled curiosity."


Tulip Chowdhury writes from Massachusetts, USA