As anyone with a toothache can tell you, tooth pain can take over your entire world. For patients of Gresham Oregon dentist Dr. Ries, it may be easy to forget that not so long ago, tooth pain was a reality that many, many people simply lived with: the resources, access and information about dental health that we have today wasn’t there.
Literature can remind us of that painful time in history when smiles were infrequent and meals mushier. Maybe because tooth pain was more common, or maybe because it inspired works of anguishing truth and passion, but many writers suffered from dental discomfort. Martin Amis, in his book Experience, reflects on this in a chapter detailing his own dental problems (he is having his rotten teeth removed permanently!):
“Question: How many of these three noted stylists– James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov and Martin Amis — suffered catastrophic tooth-loss in their early-to-middle forties? Answer: All three.”
The celebrated Irish author of Dubliners, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake was born in 1882, and his teeth would be around until 1923, when, following the extractions, Joyce spent two weeks recovering in a sanitarium. When asked about the experience, however, he noted “they [his teeth] were no good anyway.”
The luminous writing that he employed writing Lolita, Pale Fire, and Speak, Memory, was also at play as Nabokov described his oral situation to friend Edmund Wilson in a letter: “… some of them had little red cherries– abscesses– and the man in white was pleased when they came out whole, together with the crimson ivory. My tongue feels like somebody coming home and finding his furniture gone…”
A pupil of Joyce and Nabokov, Amis follows his heroes not only into literature but down a path of apparent unstoppable dental disaster. In Experience, Amis describes at length how dental pain affects his work, his family relationships, and health in general. He goes into detail describing “The Clamp,” his first set of upper dentures, as a “football boot… in your mouth,” with winning, if painfully accurate color.
Fortunately, Times Have Changed!
Thankfully, Gresham Smile Designs and science, like knowledge about fluoride and antibiotics (unavailable for the unfortunate writers), are here to keep our patients smiling.
Whether or not you are a writer, love reading, or are somewhere else on the literary path– Gresham Smile Designs is your partner in dental health. We know, and our patients know, that regular dental check-ups every six months coupled with regular brushing and flossing habits and sound diet, are the primary ingredients to lifelong oral health.
Share your favorite literary tooth story at your next check-up with Dr. Ries!