Toothless in Orillia

It was a nice summer day at McKinnell Square in Orillia when I put on a little mask that only covered my eyes, and I crouched behind the plate to catch a ball thrown by neighbourhood kid Ricky Ley, who would eventually grow up to play and coach big league hockey.

I had the ball lined up when Rick made the pitch, but the batter ticked it and the ball changed direction and flew into my mouth. And into my hand came my top front tooth, root and all.

It hurt like hell and I scrambled home and I don’t know whether Rick and the guys kept playing or not, but I like to think they felt so bad they just couldn’t carry on. Somehow, though, I feel they carried on.

I learned to live with a plastic upper plate with one tooth on it, but it would come out easily which made me paranoid. I held it in my hand one time while on the roller coaster at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto because I was afraid I’d lose it, and I broke it in about five pieces.

On one dark, fuzzy night several years after I got this tooth, my friends and I were down in the bushes drinking Four Aces sherry (95 cents) with the hobos at their little camp, and I got sick. Four Aces would do that sometimes. Shortly after, we all staggered out, and at some point I realized I’d lost my tooth, so I staggered back into the bushes in pitch-black darkness with an almost impossible chance of finding the thing. But at some point, in the middle of a blackness, in a bush, I reached down and put my hand right on it.

Nowadays I’ve got this fancy permanent tooth in my mouth and it’s way better. I don’t have to worry about losing it.

Losing it, and breaking it, and having gum stick to it. All in all, that false tooth was quite a pain in the ass.

It looked a lot like this –

And without it, I looked like this…

2 thoughts on “Toothless in Orillia”

  1. Interesting story Dennis. I guess I found it so because I’m a dentist! I hope you now have a great looking bridge or implant in that space. Today when a tooth is lost in full like yours was, if attended to as quickly as possible, dentists try to re-implant it back into the socket in the hope that it will re-attach. Such are the personal stories of our youth. When I first started out, it broke my heart every winter whenever a kid would come to see me with a broken tooth from playing hockey…organized and otherwise. Slowly the advent of the full cage came into being and when worn along with an inner (intra-oral) mouthguard which absorbed impacts to the head in general, tooth loss became virtually eradicated overnight. I’m still surprised that pro players don’t where some kind of combo where the upper portion is a plexiglass the same as the current eye visors, but with an added wire mesh lower section that would allow air to circulate while most importantly protecting their jaws and nose etc. Just like when we were kids and only one or two NHLers wore helmets, the evolution to protect the head and face will eventually change to what I describe. Look at how things changed. From bare heads, to helmets, to goal masks, to mouthguards, to visors. The NHL and NHLPA should mandate the completion of the circle to 100% protect its product…the players. Unfortunately the manly ego has made changes in this area achingly and stupidly slow. Who can forget Bryan Birard? Or even Borje Salming when a skate split his entire face from north to south creating a scar that looks like a map of the Don Valley Parkway.

  2. That tooth never really fit well either, Joel. It came out way too easy. I think I broke it at least five times and probably more, and I remember there were a few types of gum that didn’t stick to the plate, but most brands did. I never liked it, but sometimes I’d have fun with it, like the time I sat at the back of agriculture class and when the teacher was writing on the boards, I took my tooth out, smeared my face with ketchup, and fell on the floor. They carried me out and I ended up at the pool hall.

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