Crack! As I bite down on some tough meat, I feel an expensive crunch and something hard rattles against my teeth. Damn, there goes that front crown! It’s the eve of a new safari and I must go to the airport to meet a new group. I only get this one chance to make a good first impression. “Hi, I’m Zavid your zure-leazer. Welcome to Zanzania!” – Wanna come with this gap-toothed lisping troll into darkest Africa? No, I need a quick fix. The crown is intact and hollow. It fits over a peg anchored in the tooth’s root. I just need some dental cement, but I won’t find it in Arusha on a Sunday night, and tomorrow I have to brief the group after breakfast, then we hit the road to adventure. So, what have I got that’s sticky and indestructible and kind to the mouth? Chewing gum! Well, it won’t set hard, but its stickiness is legendary, and I have plenty. I start chewing and pack the crown with gum and push it into place. It sits well and feels good. This can work – as long as I don’t bite hard on it.
And it does work. For almost a week, I confidently grin and eat, and begin to take my flexible tooth for granted. Mistake. Nibbling some meat off a bone, I feel the loose crown roll to the back of my throat, then it’s GONE. I could bolt out of the dining-tent into the Serengeti night and throw up – but why waste such a good dinner? There’s another alternative, but it’s not pleasant. It involves some waiting, a can of water, a stick, a flat rock, and a hole in the ground.
24 hours later, preparing to “go through the motions” for the third time, I step out of my tent into the moonlight. By my outside lamp, a giant emperor moth flutters. So does my heart, as I sense a large presence.
Buffalo. He stands on my path, ruminating. Two more chomp at grass ten yards from the tent. To hell with buffalos – I have a mission. I stay close to the tent, and they don’t care. This time, I hit pay-dirt, a little white tooth amid the brown. I boil and disinfect it, then chew up some gum and presto! I have my smile again. Maybe next week, I’ll get some dental cement.
The phrase “sh*t-eating grin” has a totally new meaning for me now.