For those of us born in the forties, one of the most amazing advances we've seen in our lives has been dentistry. Florides, brushing education, braces, check-ups-today's kids all keep their teeth forever. Back then, all our parents seemed to accept that false teeth were inevitable. They all had them. Cursed them. Scraped on them with knives. Put them in a drinking glass by the side of the bed when they went to sleep. Nothing about losing your teeth seemed attractive. Plus I heard you couldn't play the harmonica without your teeth. I really wanted to play the harmonica someday. One family story back then had Uncle John complaining about his new false teeth loud and often on a fishing trip up north with his other brothers. Out in the boat, tired from the trip, with the fishing slow, Uncle John took his new teeth out and laid them on the boat seat, and went to sleep. Uncle Hugh, at the urging of his brothers, took his false teeth out, grabbed Uncle John's, pocketed them, and replaced them with his. Uncle John woke up, put his--his brother's, actually-- false teeth back in, clacked them a couple of times, and then, saying: "These @#$%^'ed teeth," took them out and threw them into the lake. Ah yes. I've myself never had much luck with my teeth, or dentists. The first dentist that my parents took me to, back when the dentist's office was always up a hundred-foot-long gloomy staircase over the feed store, smiled at me nicely. But when my mother left, he turned to me and said: "Well, now, I'm glad you came." He leaned me back, and said, "Open wide." After prying my adolescent jaws apart, he peered inside. His smile got bigger.He said, "Oh, my." Then he rubbed his hands together and said: "Hey, New Tires, are there any more at home with teeth like yours?" While the cement was curing-he had a special recipe that only held six months, which I figure was about the life of a bias ply Goodyear back then-he was thumbing through a catalogue. A tire catalogue. Then I had a dentist that, once he had assembled an entire set of stainless steel tinker toys inside my mouth, sang to me. Apparently, his joy at purchasing new tires for his car triggered some musical rapture in him, and he would burst into song. "Every time it rains, it rains, pennies from heaven," he would croon. "That's it. Don't close your mouth." Then, more song: "Don't you know each tooth contains, pennies from heaven." For a while, I tried to sing along with him. Then I swallowed one of those pillow-sized hunks of cotton that suck your mouth as dry as dirt. During the coughing attack that followed, I ejected two silver amalgams, a partial crown, a Black and Decker grinder, and enough hardware to build the next space station. So I found another dentist. I was in his chair, counting the metal thingamabobs he was putting in my mouth, to make sure the same amount came back out, when he said: "Open wide." Then he said, "Uh hmmmmm.....aahhh, yeeeesss." I said, "Uhhhhaaaammmbbbabbb?" Still poking around in there, he asked, "Do you grind your teeth?" Then he said, "By the way, what do you think about these Washington politicians? Aren't they something?" "Ahhhhhh oooooonnnnnn oooooooohhhhhh." "It hasn't been four years yet, and they still haven't got the budget in shape." "Eeehhhh iiinnngggg ooooohooooo." He interrupted me: "Now they expect to tax the rich. I hate'em worse than snakes, giving away money like it was candy!" He was scraping away at tartar inside my mouth like it was government programs he was cutting. "You sure you don't grind your teeth?" he asked me. Both his hands were in my mouth up to the wrists. "Oooohhh ughhhh nnnn.....!!!!" He finished ranting about politics, emptied my mouth and I left. I was extremely frustrated, having just missed out on one of the great political discussions of the year, incapable of having gotten in my own licks at the political buggers. As I walked out, I found myself grinding my teeth. I never used to grind them. At the rate politicians are spending my tax money, my teeth won't survive more than one or two more elections. I need another dentist.

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