Thursday, April 02, 2015
Today’s “soft tissue flap surgery” was primarily to take care of the abscess on one of my front teeth. He found out that it was pitted and had abnormalities, so he smoothed it all out. He said this was the source of my problems with that tooth, and also, how good it is to be able to find a clear cause of a problem and fix it.
Since he was working on a front tooth, he also fixed my frenulum labii superioris, the flap of skin that connects the upper lip to the gum. In my case, it continued down and ended up with a fleshy bit between my two front teeth, something that was visible whenever I smiled showing my front teeth. He removed that visible fleshy bit, though I don’t know if he did a frenectomy (trigger warning: the link has surgical photos) or just fixed the protruding bit (it’s still too sore to inspect and, anyway, my post op instructions told me not to lift my lip).
This fleshy protrusion has bothered me my entire life—I always hated it. It’s presence can cause a gap between the front teeth like I have, but there are other factors that can cause that, too, so there’s no guarantee that the frenulum alone caused the gap, which may have happened anyway.
It’s presence, however, gave my much younger self an oddly positive thing. My parents couldn’t afford to get me braces to fix my gap. This was something I just knew—they never said, and I never asked them, but I knew how tight money was for them, so I didn’t want to give them yet another financial burden.
Sometimes other kids would ask me why I didn’t (or tell me I should) get braces to fix the gap. Rather than admit that my parents couldn’t afford them, I’d point to the frenulum and say, “I can’t—that’s where my lip is attached.” The reason I gave was a lie, of course—I knew that. But the other kids didn’t know, so it deflected the question and avoided social/class embarrassment all at once.
That one advantage was gone after adolescence and it instead became something I hated about my smile (along with that gap). This whole journey began, of course, because I wanted a prettier smile—or, at least, one I don’t hate quite as much.
Now, part of what I hated about my smile is finally gone, and we’ve established that the problem front tooth, the one that’s dropped, is reasonably healthy (now that its problem-causing defects are fixed). This brings me one step closer to that prettier smile I still want.
I’ve drastically reduced my expectations over the past year, and I still don’t know how much of my goal/dream I can actually achieve. But one more step on that journey is now done, and, today, that’s enough. I’ll think about the next step another day.
I know that these issues aren’t life threatening, though left untreated they could have become so. But the non-seriousness of the issues doesn’t make it any less important to me (and my memory appreciates having it all written down…). As I said up front, I realise that, apart from me, these posts may only interest folks going through similar issues, but I’ll continue, anyway. To make it easier to find, I’ve also gone back and tagged all the posts Tooth Tales (more help for that memory of mine…).
And finally, a word to those of you thinking it: Yes, a frenulum is also a part of the penis (and female genitals). It’s also under the tongue. That’s because the term actually means “a connecting fold of membrane serving to support or restrain a part”. Shame on you for thinking about sex organs when my teeth are hurting from surgery!
The image above is a reproduction from the 20th US edition of Gray's Anatomy, and is in the public domain. It is available from Wikimedia Commons.