my mouth is no longer vegan: compromises, compromises

Although (perhaps because) I think he might have some sort of obsessive-dentistry disorder whereby he is completely and totally obsessed with the field of dentistry and the perfectibility of said art, I really love my dentist, Dr. Kurek. His practice is called The Center for Advanced Dentistry, and it is. The hygienist gives you a little shoulder massage while you’re getting your shot of Novocaine! It sounds weird, but it’s actually nice. They give you sunglasses to wear, so the glare doesn’t hurt your eyes. And they take digital X-rays, which means much less radiation shooting through you. And they do a million other weird things that I don’t get but I have a feeling would blow other dentists’ minds. “Thorough” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

As a child I was always scared of the dentist, like most kids, and that might explain why I didn’t partake of any dental care (well, I did brush my teeth) for about 7 years after high school (lack of dental insurance explains that too – not that I have any now, but at least I’m not a starving college kid). Which might explain why I am spending thousands of dollars this year to finally get things taken care of. (In case you’re wondering: bad teeth run in my family, it’s not a vegan thing. As a matter of fact, an oral surgeon once said that I had long, strong tooth roots most likely because of eating a lot of veggies.)

Dr. Kurek is the first dentist I’ve ever met who really listens to my concerns and treats me like a human being, and although I sound like I’m writing ad copy, it’s because although I am sitting here with an ice pack on my cheek because of pain he created, I still really like him. Because I have so many cavities in existing fillings, he has slowly been taking out my old mercury fillings, and replacing them with sleek tooth-colored ones. I feel so responsible.

Perhaps it will come as no surprise when I tell you that he also costs more than every dentist I’ve ever been to (probably combined), but as an artisan who charges the true cost of my products and thus everyone thinks they are pricey, how can I complain?

So when he said I had to have a tooth extracted and an implant put in its place, I wasn’t scared. He talked to me about the procedure, and explained that they pack the empty space with human bones. I’m not a science fictiony person, but that is pretty strange and rad. I guess they are from people who volunteered to donate their organs? How bizarre.

Although I have absolutely no qualms about my mouth being filled with dead human bones, I am not thrilled about the collagen that’s used in the procedure. Dr. Kurek explained while looking at me that it was “bovine collagen,” and instead of making fun of me as a crazy vegan, he understood that I wouldn’t be exactly happy about factory farm hamburger “byproducts” in my mouth. But again, I trust him and that this is the best thing for my mouth. Though I personally do not wear leather with the excuse that “the cow was going to die anyway and it’s better to use all parts of her,” I guess I’ll have to take that stupid easy out this time, because what are my other options? After I left the dentist I went to drive home in my car with rubber wheels made from rendered tallow on asphalt streets made from the same thing. I live in the world, and I do what I can.

I’m not a spiritual person and am in fact distrustful of people who are spiritual, but I did some deep thinking about this collagen in my mouth today. I thought about the tortured cow from which it was almost undoubtedly made. And again, even though I disagree with new agey freaks who thank the animal for “giving up” the flesh that they are about to eat (Native Americans get a wee bit of a pass for doing the same thing, because let’s face it – New Agey people are annoying no matter what they do.*), I thanked that animal whose tissues now reside in my own body. I didn’t ask to live in a world in which animals are thought of as commodities and I do a lot to try to reverse that thinking, but I have to make my peace with the fact that I can’t remain pure all the time. Even though I have visions of this incredibly sappy post ending up on some anti-peta blog (hey – I’m anti-peta too though!) and being mocked by hunters or something, I’ve decided to think of the tiny, tiny piece of a cow that lived a hellish life and now lives in me as a tattoo – a reminder of my belief system. A little totem deep inside me, helping me remember what matters.

In other tooth news, did you know that your teeth are no longer yours when they leave your body? Dr. Kurek wouldn’t give me my ridiculously awesome giant tooth because apparently it is a biohazard! Seriously. I was stunned – it’s my tooth! I own it! He did take a very lovely and gruesome magnified picture with his fancy dentist camera, but I will not subject you to it.


*Jacob’s dad – on the off chance you read this, I’m not talking about you, you’re a sweetheart – I hope you’re over your love of Hillary though!

10 Responses to “my mouth is no longer vegan: compromises, compromises”

  1. jenny s.

    The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.

  2. laurie j.

    Somehow I was allowed to keep my wisdom teeth (only had 2…not sure if that means I’m more or less wise). Once I made them into earrings for a friend who was the Tooth Fairy for Halloween. But now they’re buried in the yard of my childhood home (that my parents just sold last year, after 40 years there). One’s where we buried our Alex (the dog); the other’s where we buried little Max (the cat). Wanted to leave a little DNA behind to keep them, and the house, company.

    (Hope your mouth feels better soon)

  3. lagusta

    Aww, Laurie, that is cute and nice and what a wonderful idea. Actually, I have 3 of my wisdom teeth too (1 broke apart into amazing splinters on its way out of my mouth), and when I told my dentist that, he said that the oral surgeon shouldn’t have given them to me. Meh. I actually just arranged them on a cute vintage plate along with the picture of today’s horrible tooth, as a little macabre tableau in the bathroom. Again, I’ll spare you a photo.

  4. Dustin Rhodes

    I wish I lived near your dentist. I have yet to meet the elusive & amazing dentist. This creature apparently does not exist in Washington DC.

    Boo hoo.

  5. Bruce

    So I came across this posting today and found it funny and flattering. Your desription of me was pretty much the way I would describe myself too. Anyway I wanted to let you know that the collagen and human bone are no longer part of you, they’ve been replaced by your own tissues. Have a great time in Hawaii and say hi to Jacob from me.

  6. lagusta

    Oh, I’m so glad!! I meant it all nicely! And what awesome news about the bones and collagen…but where did they GO???

    Jacob says hello!


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