It's been a long time since I last had a wiggly tooth. My final baby incisor fell out when I was 16. I was long past believing in the Tooth Fairy, or anything much except the unfairness of life, so no sixpence under the pillow for me. Just an embrrassing gap for the next 20 years. And a permanent memento of my delayed development in the form of my first passport photo.
Eventually it occured to me that I didn't have to keep cowering behind my hand when I laughed, that as an adult I could spend the money I earned on something that would make me feel better. So I had a bridge made, and from that moment grinned freely and often. Sometimes when a grin wasn't even justified.
Imagine my dismay, then, to discover some decades on that I had another loose tooth.
I poked it. I wriggled it. I tried to believe I was imagining it. I went into denial for a week or two. I began poking and wriggling again, sometimes in the dead of night, as if I might be able to creep up on it before it had time to pretend to be loose. I had dreams of losing all my teeth and being unable to make myself understood or eat anything but baby food.
Finally I went online in the expectation of being told not to worry, that everyone from time to time got wiggly teeth, and that it would soon see sense and tighten up again.
In fact, online told me I probably had gum disease. Worse, it said that this was most likely caused by poor dental hygiene.
I reeled back in horror and fled to the bathroom. I flossed so long and so fiercely that for an hour afterwards all my teeth hummed and moaned. Then I made an appointment to see the dentist.
She didn't call my tooth loose or wriggly - she called it "mobile". I thought that rather overstated the situation, as if the damn thing were practically nomadic. Nor did she tell me not to worry. She said I had done the right thing in coming to see her and that something would have to be done.
You know when they say that you're not going to get off lightly. There will be pain, quite a lot of it, and mostlyu in the wallet.
I won't bore you with the details. The upshot is that the tooth is loose not because of my sloppy personal habits but because for 30 years it's been having to do a disproportionate amount of the chewing work.
I must learn to chew on the other side of my mouth, and that's where she will construct a second bridge to take the strain.
If it it all goes to plan, my smile will be unaffected. After I've recovered from paying for it, that is.