there have been a lot of words written on the subject of george washington's wooden dentures. had he not suffered greatly from a multiplicity of toothaches, it's doubtful if the american revolution would have been successful. all of us know the specific pain of the infected tooth nerves, and i have no doubt those pains have been the cause of much violence in our society.
i don't give a lot of thought to my teeth, though the genius of dentistry who takes care of my neglected mouth constantly advises me on brushing, flossing and rinsing. a couple of my teeth recently decided to die quietly in the dark recesses of my mouth-unnoticed, they thought, until my friend dr. joseph fearon of west end avenue spotted them and decided that removal of the remains and a decent burial was in order. half the pain in dental procedures has to do with anticipated agony, which is unnecessary. when dr. fearon says, "this will not hurt," it doesn't. or he might say, "this will sting a little." it does, as he sticks the needle into the gum, but otherwise i breathe easily.
so there i was a week or so ago in the chair with mouth wide open, trying to talk but only emitting idiotic gurgles as the anesthesia spread slowly around the gums, brain and head. one of these grinders had cracked and broken off, so the remaining piece felt like alcatraz island nestled in the rear of the upper gum. but the extracting instrument in the hands of a humanitarian who does feel your pain got a good grip and out came alcatraz and all the accumulated rot with it.
when i was growing up in limerick, ireland, there was the assumption that all teeth would be gone by the age of 25, so it was best to have them pulled out while you were still young and healthy. that gave rise to the hoary joke, "what do you have when you get 32 limerick women in one room?" answer: a full set of teeth. i was lucky enough to grow up with good teeth-look at all the trouble and disease emanating from rotten teeth and no teeth. infected food going down the gullet; unchewed food swallowed unaccompanied by enzymes, causing severe digestive problems. and now we learn that heart disease is one of the results of neglected teeth. then there is the problem of never getting a smile from a person too embarrassed to display blackened or odiferous bicuspids.
this column was inspired by hearing that our mayor is going to eliminate a dental program for poor children, about 17,000 of them, which is appalling. don't poor people suffer enough? this program costs about $4 million a year. now, the pentagon spends $45 million an hour, yes, an hour, so if we took 10 minutes of their spending we could look after these children for a year. of course, i am being stupid. poor children can't defend us against iraqi terrorist children. or if the governor would take some of the billion we are spending on that other boondoggle, the national guard, we could solve a lot of domestic problems and insure every man, woman and child in the state against dental disease. of course there would be a concomitant decrease in the violence from people who have gone cuckoo from just having a toothache. -- check my website malachymccourt.com and read malachy mccourt's history of ireland.