He’s Nothing Without His Choppers

Remember that story I told you about my two front teeth getting knocked out by a line drive off my daughter’s bat about 16 months ago?  Not really?  Okay, quick refresher – took a line drive directly to my face, just below my nose and just above my front teeth.  I assume what I felt was similar to what Hollywood felt when they called Pennsylvania for Trump.

No bone fractures, no cracked teeth, just quite a bit of blood.  And swelling.  Pretty gross.  Also my face is evidently made out of high grade steel.  Not that I’m bragging or daring you to test that conclusion but its pretty amazing that my teeth were fully intact along with the rest of my face.  Anyway, went to the ER and then to the dentist.  After their unexpected exit from my mouth the fugitive teeth were transported to the ER in my pocket and then to the dentist in a cup of milk.  For teeth, milk is apparently like a defibrillator.  After about an hour of being as toothless as Hillary’s appeal in the upper Midwest, the dentist replanted the teeth using sheer brute force.  Afterwards it was clearly explained to me that they had no idea if the replanting would work.  Replanting normally only works in teenagers.  Dudes in their mid-40’s eventually come back in to get permanent replacement teeth because we do not have the bloodflow necessary in our gums for a complete healing process to succeed.

Yeah, so here’s the update.  I had a dentist appointment last week and it was time for x-rays.  By the way, does it cause anyone even the slightest bit of concern that your protection against multiple invisible radioactive x-rays is a flimsy apron infused with lead or a lead equivalent?  Or that the lead apron covers you from mid-thigh to your neck…but they are aiming the radiation at your mouth which is unprotected and, if I remember human anatomy correctly, is really damn close to your brain.

Anyway, I had a new hygienist working on my teeth.  She didn’t know the whole backstory.  I suggested she read my dental history before working on my teeth.  I think she took the comment as skepticism of her ability to her job.  Which, in retrospect, is silly.  If you’re going to pick a fight with someone, it sure as hell isn’t going to be a person armed with sharp pokey things and the legal protection to cause significant dental related pain.  But she still looked at me the same way I looked when the Steelers were eliminated from playoff contention in 1980.  Then she went back to the chart and after about 30 seconds, she turns toward me and says, “So, those are your real teeth back in there, huh?”

Is Samantha Bee a hypocritical condescending douchelord?

After she’s done cleaning my teeth, she grabs the x-rays and calls for the dentist to take a look.  They’re laughing as they come back to my chair.  Dentist says, “I was just going over our, um, history.”  Turns out getting your teeth knocked out by a softball moving faster than the Milennium Falcon making the Kessel Run then salvaging them quickly enough that they can be shoved back into your sockets isn’t something most hygenists are taught to deal with in school.

Dentist holds up the x-ray of my front teeth and describes that inexplicably the gum tissue surrounding my teeth is not only healthy but it appears as if nothing ever happened.  Additionally, the ligaments appear to have reattached.  But mostly importantly it looks as if the roots of the teeth and the bone are fusing.  This is a condition called ankylosis .

So sort of a double edged sword here according to my dentist.  Chances are, as long as things remain healthy, these teeth aren’t coming out again.  They are pretty damn secure.  Which, again, she can’t believe because dudes in the mid-40’s don’t have their teeth replanted, they have them replaced.  But the downside is that if they ever need to come out for some reason, it’s kind of a big deal.  The dentist’s conclusion?

“You’re are an amazing healer.  Your gums are as healthy as can be, the teeth look completely normal and they are really, really secure in there.”

My response?

wolverine“I might be off base here but what I’m hearing you say is that I’m Wolverine.  I have extraordinary healing powers but instead of retractable adamantium claws, I have beaver teeth.”

Dentist didn’t totally agree, but also didn’t completely reject it.  So I’m counting that as win.

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Show Teeth Part 4: Liquid Diet

When your dentist tells you that you’re on a liquid diet for the next two weeks what is your reaction?

If you’re like me it was, “Woo hoo! Every beer’s a sandwich!”

No seriously, what’s your reaction? A liquid diet severely limits the available intake. The twist is that in order to take the painkillers you can’t have an empty stomach. So you have to ingest something. Unless you enjoy pain radiating from your gums. I’ve never been on a liquid diet before. Well, not counting Friday afternoons in college. Doesn’t anybody else miss FACing? Regardless, anything that requires you to use your front teeth to bite, tear or even hold a piece of food in place is off the menu. Because, in case you forgot, you’re two front teeth are as useless as an ethics seminar for Hillary Clinton. They’re show teeth, not work teeth. And while the magic dental cement is holding your teeth in place, it’s rather painful if anything touches them – literally anything – your other teeth, your tongue, air.

My initial reaction was just a matter of fact, “well if that’s what the deal is, I’ll figure it out.” My subsequent reaction was “Crap, he really said liquid diet for two weeks.” So we stopped at the grocery store before heading home from the dentist. We made a short list that essentially was “stuff that I could put in a blender.” But the thing I didn’t really think about was walking through the grocery store around 9:30 on a Thursday night looking like John McClane after that night in the Nakatomi Building might be somewhat disconcerting for other grocery store patrons. Unless it’s Halloween, nobody really expects to see a guy with blood spatter all over his face and shirt in the grocery store. Well, unless its a random drunk millennial couple who took a selfie while picking out some organic frozen pizza on the way home from the bar and was deservedly punched in the face. That wouldn’t shake me or any other Gen Xer at all. Probably get a few head nods and an “about freaking time” comment. But nobody expected to see a 45 year-old dude with a top lip the size of a zeppelin with stitches poking out of it walking around the grocery store with bananas, blueberries, raspberries, protein powder and milk. What? Smoothies man, smoothies. You can’t put nachos in the blender.

So after my weird shower where I couldn’t feel the water hitting my face, I took the painkillers and drank the smoothie. Didn’t sleep much. I was afraid to close my mouth. Or move my tongue. I was jarred awake at one point after I presumably, albeit unconsciously, introduced my replanted teeth to my permanent teeth on the bottom row. Mom had set the alarm for exactly 8 hours after I took the initial dose of painkillers so I could take the next dose and avoid “chasing the pain.” So I had another smoothie. Then I had the stark realization that until I ceased looking like Marko the Albanian crimelord after Liam Neeson beat the crap out of him in Taken, I was going to be drinking smoothies and nothing else. Two things here. First, it wasn’t like drinking the smoothies was easy. I had to tip my head back and pour the smoothie into my mouth without any of it touching my front teeth. Not as simple as it sounds. I’m serious. Go do it right now. Tough isn’t it? Second, you quickly get to the point that you decide that being hungry is preferable to consuming anything. It was such a freaking production, and not to mention still painful, that it was easier to determine how much I actually needed to consume in order to the take the painkillers. Turns out not much.

Saturday morning, and I assume this was because she wanted to torture me, Mom went out to Panera and got the girls some breakfast. The only item that wasn’t fully consumed was a cinnamon roll. Yes, cinnamon rolls are kinda soft. And yes, I did put some thought into mixing it with milk in the blender. But in the end I just decided it wasn’t worth it. But just before taking the girls to the mall, Mom took the time to cut it up into tiny pieces. And I mean tiny. Like Barbie size pieces. Like Barbie and Ken, using Barbie sized plates and forks could each have had one of these tiny pieces on those plates while using those forks and it would have looked like a photo from the 1977 JCPenny Christmas catalog.

So you can guess what happens next. In words of Joel Goodson in Risky Business, “Sometimes you just gotta say, what the f*&#.” Or you throw caution to the wind and eat the cinnamon roll. You kind of chew with your tougue and your molars. Mostly your tongue. Oh, and you never actually close your mouth. Go ahead. Try it. It’s not easy. You eat less but it takes a long time. You smash the tiny pieces of cinnamon roll against you molars. I also tried this with tiny pieces of pineapple and cantaloupe. Tested a couple soups. And then eventually moved on to oatmeal. Lots and lots of oatmeal.

Thankfully I’m about 8 weeks post impact and if I hadn’t told you this story you’d never notice that any of this happened. You might ask why I lost some weight but there’s really no noticeable difference save a small scar on my top lip. A week after it happened the dentist did a double root canal on each tooth. It was pretty uneventful. Two weeks after that she took off the bonding that was the front of the teeth and then about 2 and a-half weeks after that she took the bonding off the back of the teeth. In her words, the ligaments and the gums are healing surprisingly really well. She’s going to write an article about me and submit it to a dental journal. Turns out while I’m 45, my teeth my gums are only 12. Teeth are solid. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a better chance the media recognizes that Bernie Sanders sounds a lot like the totalitarian national socialists of 1930’s Germany than a 60’s era socialist than I take a bite of an apple or even a sandwich. But I’m fine cutting everything into manageable pieces.

So you’re wondering, have I learned anything from this experience. Well, yes. I bought a catcher’s mask and won’t pitch to the girls without it. Also, after people experience something painfully stressful, I completely get why they might be a bit jumpy when it comes to doing it again. Additionally, I might write a quick full-proof weight loss plan based on consuming nothing other than liquids and soft foods cut into tiny pieces. Finally, I believe I’ve found the phrase that best describes this:

“Man, the sh*t you do for your kids.”

Show Teeth Part 3: Replanting

We arrive at the dentist’s office about 10 minutes after leaving the ER. Despite my skepticism, the anesthetic was still working so I felt okay…for a guy who was just smashed in the face with a line drive and had his top lip sewn back together and was holding his front teeth in a container filled with milk. So it’s all relative I guess. Dentist does a quick calculation on the amount of time the teeth have been out of my mouth and says “Well, if they’re intact, we’ll replant them.”

Okay, so two things here. Replanting teeth is exactly what it sounds like. And it turns out I was actually pretty lucky with the result of the impact. I’ll explain.

My now free range and cage free teeth were perfect. No cracks, no chips, no fractures, nothing. The impact of the ball simply ejected them from their original location in my mouth. Also, I had absolutely no damage to any other teeth in my mouth. No cracks, no chips, no fractures, nothing. Plus the two teeth on either side of my front teeth weren’t even loose. They were hanging in there like the ’92 Bills in the divisional round against the Oilers. Gums were enflamed, extremely bloody and sore but the teeth were solid. X-Rays showed that I also had managed to escape without any fractures to the bone below my nose and above my teeth. Nose wasn’t broken either. No concussion. Ball didn’t hit me in the eye, the forehead, the jaw or the ear. My face is evidently constructed much like a Terminator’s…albeit one that, without warning or anesthetic, essentially had it’s front teeth involuntarily removed with near surgical precision by a line drive. By a 13 year-old girl.

So the dentist wanted to replant them so the gums could heal with the teeth in there and then, when they eventually have to put replacement teeth in, everything will be healthy. Or something like that. He also told me that none of this should really work either because I’m 45. Replanting the teeth normally is only possible, and only works, on kids and teenagers. Something about blood flow in the gums. When you’re 45 and you take a line drive to the mouth, in the words of the dentist, “it’s like a grenade went off and there are broken teeth, pieces and fractures everywhere.” I had none of that. Hence the plan to replant. Only problem is the teeth had been out of mouth for a little over an hour. And once you get past an hour, the success rate goes down.

Anyway, replanting requires more needles to the face and to roof of my mouth. Again, unpleasant. But at this point, who really gives a crap? The dentist fishes out the first tooth from the cup of milk and says to Mom, “Do you have a picture of him smiling? I want to put them back in as close to what they were.” And trust me on this, as long as he didn’t put them in backwards, I really didn’t care if they looked like they had previously.

He consults the pic then tips me back in the chair so my head is now the lowest part of my body. After several tries to get the first tooth in it becomes apparent, to me anyway, that the anesthetic from the ER has completely worn off and the stuff administered by the dentist hasn’t kicked in. Since teeth only survive so long out of your mouth, the time crunch meant the anesthetic really didn’t have the requisite time to take effect. So it felt like he was trying to push a nail into my gums. I’m sweating like a fat kid who is last in line at Krispy Kreme and Mom has to literally hold down one my legs down because it started shaking. Turns out, if you have an unpleasantness ranking, this is far more unpleasant than the whole needle in the roof of your mouth thing.

So the dentist says, “I’m going to give you some stronger anesthetic and hopefully it works. But here’s the deal, we gotta get these teeth in so it really comes down to whether or not you can take the pain.”

“Doc, put those fu@#ers back in.”

So he did. They put two cotton balls under my top lip to keep it away from my gums and then they stuck two torture devices in the back of my mouth that literally wedged it open. It’s like two mini car jacks on your molars. It wasn’t enjoyable. But the anesthetic thankfully kicked in and, once the teeth were replanted, he used some kind of magic dental bonding agent and cemented the two replanted teeth together and then to the teeth on either side placing the dental cement on both the front and back of the teeth. The idea being that the teeth need to be held in place while the gums heal and reattach to the teeth. And remember how I told you that my head was the lowest part of my body? Yeah, so all that anesthetic kind of pooled in the middle of my face. I couldn’t feel my nose, my eyes, the top of my mouth and most of my eyebrows. Yeah, that felt weird. Ever try to take contacts out when you can’t feel your eye balls?

Mom drove me back to my truck, I smirked at the bloody hand prints, and drove home. She stopped at the 24 hour pharmacy, and I waited at home. And listen, I was like Bigfoot going after wayward hikers when she got home with the painkillers. I still couldn’t feel my nose or eyes but it was starting to wear off in my gums. Took the painkillers, took a shower and tried to calm down. And I really started to think about how the hell I was going to eat anything…

Show Teeth Part 2: Needles

Finally, Mom arrives in the parking lot. Kinz takes off on a dead sprint to her car. And yes, right after the relief I felt knowing I wasn’t going to bleed all over my drive while driving myself to the ER, I made a mental note to tell Kinz that the speed she showed running down the sidewalk to Mom is the kind of speed she needs to show when she lays down a bunt.

“Mom why didn’t you answer your phone? I hit Dad in the mouth with a ball and his teeth are knocked out.”

Mom, obviously not expecting this turn of events, answers with, “Umm…what now?”

Then I show up. This was really the first time I looked down. I had left a pretty impressive blood trail up and down the sidewalk. If this were the zombie apocalypse, we’d be attracting them like crazy. I jump in the car, mindful not to bleed all over everything, and we take off for the emergency room. We stop quick at home to get my insurance card because we didn’t want any kind of delay and then head over. Thankfully for us, the softball fields, our house and ER are all with 10-15 minutes of each other.

We walk into the ER and the nice lady behind the desk says, “Nose bleed?”

And I’m pretty sure she was serious. What I was about to say before Mom cut me off: “Yeah, I came to the f’ing ER because I have a f’ing nose bleed!” Mom quickly says, “No. He got hit in the face with a line drive and it knocked his teeth out.”

She checks me in and then we stand there for a good 15 minutes before the nurse walks over and takes us into a room. A quick scan of the ER waiting room reveals exactly one person is bleeding from his face. It’s me. So yeah, I was kinda thinking I had pretty good chance at jumping up in line over some of these other people. Nurse comes out, takes a look at her sheet before looking up at me and says, “Now, you got hit the mouth and your teeth are loose?”

Without any hit of sarcasm I reach into my shorts pocket, retrieve the two items in there, and then extend my arm towards the nurse, “No, my teeth are in my pocket.”

“I’ll go ahead and get the doctor,” she says.

She comes back quickly and takes the teeth and puts them in a cup of milk. Evidently it is how you preserve teeth. If I actually was a hockey player or a boxer I guess, I’d have already know this. I happen to walk by a mirror and get a look at myself. I looked like Balboa after 15 rounds with Creed. I looked like Carter after the last debate with Reagan. I looked like Isaiah Robertson trying to tackle Earl Campbell in the Astrodome back in September of ’78. Blood all over my shirt, dried blood on my face and arms. Some even on my shoes.

Doc comes in, takes a look, and says he’s going to stitch up my lip and suggests we call our dentist ASAP. Mom makes the call. We get the answering service who tells us we’ll probably have to wait until morning. Mom politely, but sternly, explains that simply is unacceptable. A couple minutes later we get a call from the dentist who clearly understood the nature of the situation better than the answering service. Our dentists are a husband and wife team. They actually have evening hours on Thursdays and we were hoping that we could get them while still at the office. Turns out we just missed them still being in the office. Mom explains the situation to Dr. Mindy who then tells us that she’ll tell her husband to turn around and head back to the office and meet us there. Which, by the way, was really, really awesome. If you ever need a dentist, I know two of them who are bad asses.

So getting stitches isn’t a big deal. You’ve probably had some at some point in your life. Getting stitches in your lip, with all the nerve endings, requires a fairly healthy amount of anesthetic. So he sticks me with the needle on both sides of my nose but just above my top lip and in the roof of my mouth. So, in case you were curious, a needle in the roof of your mouth is unpleasant. You might want to write that down so you don’t forget.

Anyway, he gives me about 10 minutes or so for the stuff to kick in and he gets to work. Doc puts one stitch in the inside of my bottom lip. A whole line of them horizontally across the inside of top lip. Then a couple vertically on the inside of my top lip. On the outside of the top lip, I had an arc-shaped cut right in the middle. He stitched the two ends of the arc then essentially used some kind of glue on the rest of the cut. We grabbed the cup holding my teeth and headed to the dentist. Right before leaving I had one more question for the ER doc regarding the length of time I should expect the anesthetic to work. “Don’t worry, it’ll last well after you get to the dentist.”

By the way, during the stitching, Mom calls our neighbors to ask them if they can run down to the fields and pick up Kinz and Bails. Because, remember, they are still there practicing. Unfortunately, our neighbors were on their way to Minnesota to see family. Also Mom evidently has a natural tendency for cliffhangers.

“Brian, hey, can you pick up the girls at the fields at 8:30? We’re in the emergency room. Kinz hit a line a drive and…hold on the doctor just came back into the room, I’ll call you back.” Click.

She calls back a couple minutes later and explains the whole situation. Then they explain that they can’t pick up the girls because they’re half way to Minnesota. Thankfully Kinz’ coach drove them both home. But right before Mom hangs up the phone, our neighbors ask, “Hey, before they fix everything take a picture and send it to me.”

Yeah, so that’s what they wanted. A pic of me with a smashed mouth, covered in blood and no teeth. Mom walks over with the phone to actually take the pic. I turn towards her and she realizes two things: 1) my lip is so swollen that it can’t physically be moved to the show my lack of teeth without causing additional – and unnecessary – pain. 2) I evidently have a pretty good “No f’ing way” look that I shot at her.

Listen, I was doing a pretty good job of being a fairly good sport about this whole ordeal. But I’m not letting Mom take a pic so it can live forever on freaking social media. Even less than an hour after impact, I was pretty sure this episode was something that didn’t require any visual reminders.

Somehow, she still managed to get one pic:
Lambertteeth

Show Teeth Part 1: Impact

So remember how I was describing wonderfulness of picking up other people’s garbage in minor league baseball stadiums? Yeah, so anyway, I was wondering if you had to choose – and I mean you had to or there’d be dire consequences…like you’d be forced to watch the Don’t Worry Be Happy video over and over – so would you rather do pick up other people’s garbage…or get hit in the face with a line drive?

Take your time. Picking up the garbage is pretty gross when it mostly consists of empty beer cans and stadium food. Oh, and bees. Bees evidently really like to hang out inside empty beer cans. And, truth be told, not too many people are going to have a reliable frame of reference for this particular choice. So you’re guessing. Which is the same thing Josh Scobee evidently does whenever he kicks the football.

Softball really has two seasons. Teams get picked in July, practice starts right after that and then they start playing tournaments in August and, if they want, can play all the way until November. This seems like overkill. People in the Midwest are already complaining about going to football games in November and we might still be playing softball. Thankfully, we usually play until the end of September. So Mom and I decided to take the girls out for some extra practice in August before school started and activities completely took over our lives. It was going really well. We convinced Kinz to adjust her batting stance and suddenly she really started hitting the ball. Hard. Line drives. Rod Freaking Carew. One Thursday afternoon, let’s say it was August 13th, I took her out to the fields. Mom was about 15 minutes behind us. We thought we’d do a little bit of hitting while Bails practiced and we waited for Kinz’ practice to start. I set up with the bucket of balls and tossed a few warm up pitches. Kinz stepped in and took a few cuts to settle in. Hit a couple weak grounders and fouled a couple off, then she got serious. Good contact. Line drives and one-hoppers toward shortstop. It was going pretty well.

For about 10 minutes.

We got out there about 6:15. And about 6:30 or so things changed.

Remember that shot Clue Haywood hit off Ricky Vaughn mid-season back in ’89. The one that he crushed towards South America and left nothing but a vapor trail. Kinz hit one of those except it was a line drive. At my face. Directly into the middle of top lip. Just below my nose. Absorbed completely by my two tooth front teeth.

Blood is warm. You really don’t realize how warm it actually is until it is filling your mouth and spilling out between your fingers as you instinctively – albeit pointlessly – hold your hand(s) over your mouth. Also, just to confirm, it is an odd feeling holding your two front teeth in bottom of your mouth. I’m not a dentist but I was pretty sure this was bad.

I start heading to the dugout to get my phone because I was also pretty sure we were going to need Mom ASAP. Kinz comes sprinting up to me.

“Dad! Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. Are you okay?”

This is one of those times that you really have to be completely in control of your emotions and have a high degree of control over the brain functions that control speech, word choice, voice tone and other things which convey things to your 13 year-old daughter. If I freak out, all the improvement and momentum she’s gained hitting the ball might evaporate overnight. And after listening to all the 13 year-old girl whining about not hitting the ball as well as she wants…that ain’t an option.

What my natural reaction was:

“MOTHER FU@#*&!!!!! YOU GOTTA BE FU@#^%@ KIDDING ME!!!!”

My actual reaction:

“Nice hit…but you knocked my teeth out.”

You know in movies when the actor gets injured and you’re all, “Dude just get your phone and call for help.” Yeah, so using a smartphone with a touch screen isn’t as simple as you’d hope when both of your hands are covered with blood, you’re holding your two front teeth in the bottom of your mouth, and…just in case you were wondering, it hurts like a MOTHER FU@#*&!!!!!

I quickly did the math and freaking out wasn’t going to stop the bleeding or permit me to travel back in time and complete the Jiu-Jitsu training necessary to improve my hand speed allowing me to bring my glove up in time to catch the ball. Or, worst case, change its trajectory and decrease its air speed. Also I figured out that I needed something to jam into the gaping space that used to hold my teeth. I gave my bloody phone to Kinz and we quickly walked to my truck. And, FYI, in addition to being warm, blood is slippery. I couldn’t get my damn door open because my damn bloody hand kept slipping off the damn handle. Kinz opens the door and then calls Mom. I stop myself from leaning too far into the driver’s side seat of my truck because I don’t want to bleed all over it. I was impressed with myself that I still cared about upholstery…or at least the cost of cleaning it. I manage to reach the roll of paper towels I keep in there.

What? I have three kids. There is always crap to clean up in my truck. Anyway, I shove a couple paper towels into my mouth. Kinz keeps calling Mom because, as is usually the case, she’s ignoring calls from my phone. Kinz tries calling her from her phone. Still no answer.

Thankfully one of the Moms we know from softball sees us struggling and asks if I’m ok. Through the paper towels, blood, fat lip and loose teeth I give a brief, but rough, explanation. She grabs some ice from her cooler. I wrap it up and hold the ice on my lip with the paper towels shoved into my mouth. At this point I’m frustrated that Mom hasn’t answered so I make the call to head to the emergency room ourselves. We just have to grab our stuff off the field before we leave. Just as I’m doing that one of the coaches for another team in our system, who is also a local cop and pretty big guy, comes over the outfield fence and runs over to us. And this is not a short fence. It’s like a 8 foot fence.

Weirdly somebody got video of it:

“Take a knee!” he orders. “What happened?”

“Kinz hit a line drive into my mouth, knocked out my teeth.”

“You black out?”

“What? No, I’m fine. Got my teeth knocked out.”

He takes a look at my mouth, gets a big smile and says, “Unfortunately for you, being the handsome man you are, you now look like a hockey player.”

Kinz is still kinda freaking out. “Dad I’m so, so sorry.”

In the calmest and most reassuring tone I can muster I answer, “Kinz, that’s the best hit you’ve had all fall.”

Cop smiles again, “That’s a good Dad right there. Daughter knocks out his teeth and he’s still encouraging her.”