I got my braces on at the end of sixth grade and after fighting with my orthodontist, my parents, and my headgear on the daily. They were awful but when I had them removed a week before basketball season, my teeth were perfectly straight and beautiful.
It was the fourth day of practice and I was trying to cement my starting job for the third year in a row. In seventh grade I was 5'10" and started at center. In eighth grade I was still 5'10" and started at forward. This year I was going to start at guard. I was still 5'10". (Still am, actually).Anyway, it was the middle of practice and I was going up for a rebound over Chad MacMurray, a 6'3" kid who had ZERO talent but was tall so he was on the court. His elbow caught me while rising and two of my front teeth flew up into the air. I calmly (and like a ninja) caught them. I stood still for a minute while I assessed the situation. First off, it didn't hurt at all. My teeth were so loose after my braces that I didn't even feel the loss. Secondly, I was holding them. And third, I was bleeding a whole lot. I walked up to Coach Jones and quietly said, "I need to rinse my mouth out Coach. I lost a couple teeth." He freaked out for me since I wasn't. He dragged me into the locker room and called my parents to tell them. While Coach Jones was on the phone, I stood in front of the massive mirror and examined my mouth and gaping tooth-hole. I was still bleeding but I was in shock and didn't really know what to do. I remembered that my cousin had lost a tooth once and the dentist had told him that one should always put the tooth back in the mouth because that is the tooth's natural environment. In my foggy state, I remembered that a little wrong. I thought the dentist meant to put the tooth back into the hole from where it came instead of just the mouth to wait to get to the dentist. I looked at my two teeth in my hand, looked at the bloody holes in my gums... and I shoved my teeth back up in there. They made a pretty loud slurping sound as they were re-positioned and did hurt a bit but the shock was still strong and I did it without feeling too much. On the bright side, the bleeding stopped for the most part. I did, however, have blood all over my face and hands, as well as a white practice jersey that was forever changed to red.
Coach Jones came out of the office and told me my folks were on the way. I showed him what I did and he was repulsed, actually gagging a bit. I told him, "Let's go back to practice," but he wouldn't let me. In hindsight, I was in serious shock. Eventually my parents arrived to take me to the dentist. I walked through the gym on my way out to freak out the rest of the team and to tell Chad that I was going to kick his ass later. My team was pretty horrified by my bloody face and shirt but I was numb.
When my parents got there, they were freaked out. Not just about the wasted money of three years of orthodontics but because I was such a mess. We drove up to the dentist who was waiting for me. They took me right back where the dentist, Dr. Hansen, immediately examined me. He asked, "Did you put these in yourself?" I nodded in the affirmative, proud of myself, and he merely shook his head and told me, "You put them in backwards." He held a mirror out to me and I was a wreck. My teeth were indeed in backward and both were sticking out at odd angles. It was gross. He then said, "I have to pull them again," and he did just that. Right then. Without much warning. There was another loud slurping sound but this time it really hurt.
You know when a doctor or dentist tells you that something will hurt that it will REALLY hurt, right? They usually say it may hurt a bit or that you may feel a pinch. Well, Dr. Hansen said to me, "This is really going to hurt. I have to give you Novocaine shots in the holes where your teeth used to be." I was not happy. His hygienist prepared the needle to my left as I started to sweat. Before I could totally freak out, he grabbed the needle and jabbed it into my empty tooth-hole. It felt like it went all the way up to brain. Tears streamed down my cheeks as he maneuvered the needle around the hole. Eventually it eased as the pain killer entered my bloodstream but it was fairly traumatizing. After getting numb, the receptionist came in and said, "His parents said that you can give him nitrous oxide." Why couldn't they have said that five minutes earlier?? The hygienist strapped on this nose piece, turned some nob, and told me to breathe in some "sweet air" deeply. It immediately relaxed me and I no longer cared about the pain. I was so high right then on the nitrous.
What followed was a four hour procedure where Dr. Hansen re-inserted my teeth to see if they would be accepted by my mouth. He gave me lots of antibiotics, he cemented a big fat metal bar across my teeth, and he chastised me for not wearing a mouthguard. While flying high under the nitrous I made a fool of myself. I grabbed the water cleaning squirter and sprayed Dr. Hansen in the face. I farted a bunch of times and laughed about it. I told the hygienist that she was gorgeous and asked her if she would "be my first" and "teach me how to be a man." I didn't find out about any of that until the next day when my mom told me. Fairly humiliating.
I have had long-lasting consequences from that flying elbow. I still have missing teeth (my body rejected the teeth after eight months and I wore a retainer with fake teeth on them for years). I tried a bridge but it kept breaking so I'm back to a retainer. I missed out on my freshman basketball season except for the last game. I didn't start but I did play for a few minutes. I was pretty hesitant on the court and it would be the last time I'd ever play organized basketball. I didn't ever beat up Chad MacMurray but I still kind of hate him.
My assignment for my students was to write about either love or loss. I love a few things: my wife and daughter, my job, my students, my friends, and my Seattle Mariners. But today I present the time I lost my love of basketball and my teeth.