Alzheimer’s, A Denture And Belly Dancing

Belly dancer

I remember well Ken’s pre-Alzheimer’s sense of humor which included a night out, a removable denture and a belly dancer.

September 28, 2012 – Ken’s teeth were, no doubt, pretty normal: enough cavities to keep his dentist busy and enough hygiene know how for a good balance during his growing-up years and into young adulthood.  Then there was a bit of neglect in twice-yearly checkups while serving in the Merchant Marine and then better care during his stint with the Navy.  But the dye was cast; he did not inherit the great salvia possessed by his father and mother to fight the good fight against cavity causing bacteria.  So it was as middle age approached the fillings gave way to necessary crowns and bridge work.


By now Dr. T. had retired and our new dentist was Dr. T., Jr.  Picking away with a special dental pick, as dentists do, Dr. T. said, “You waited a little too long with this one Ken.  You’ve had an abscess at the root which is not a good thing, and the structure has so deteriorated it won’t support a crown; time for a bridge.”

I was always saddened at the loss of a tooth, and it had been a smile tooth which made it even sadder.  When I looked at the blank space I thought my handsome husband suddenly looked — well — older.  Yet Conrad, a more mature colleague at work, thought he looked like a six-year old and kidded Ken unmercifully until the bridge was finished and in his mouth.  Pleased with his new look and tooth I also noticed the shinning metal clamps which held it firmly in place.  A removable bridge; hummmm, not sure if I liked removable bridges, and I wasn’t certain I was happy with those metal things which showed when he laughed, but it was better than a gaping hole in his smile.


However, it didn’t take Ken long before he managed to make the new tooth into a toy.  No, he didn’t remove it to slide it back and forth across his desk, but he did find that he could loosen it with his fingernail, support it with his tongue, and then click it back into the empty spot with a quick bite.  “Click,” it said each muffled time he popped it back in place.  It wasn’t something he did all the time; mostly when he was concentrating on something very intense, or watching TV.

“Stop that! I would ask.”

“Stop what?” he questioned.

“Clicking that tooth.”

“Was I clicking my tooth?”

“Yes.  Please stop.”

“I didn’t know I was clicking my tooth.”

“You must be doing it subconsciously, but please don’t do it anymore,” I pleaded.

“I’ll try.”

That’s how it is when small, irritating habits are formed.  I suppose it’s like biting one’s nails or snapping chewing gum. They just do it. The perpetrators aren’t aware they are driving others crazy, but they are. I couldn’t help but wonder if at work he was driving Conrad nuts with his tooth clicking.  Whatever!  He promised he would try and change his ways if only to make me happy, perhaps Conrad too.


Following our conversation, he made every effort to not click his one-tooth removable denture, and I did appreciate his dedication for compliance.  He did, though, enjoy the tooth as a visual aid. While some grandpas can pop out a full set of teeth for their grandchildren’s amusement, Ken liked to tell the little ones about the importance of caring for their teeth or you might lose them, or one, and he would remove the bridge to illustrate his point.  I wondered if the show was so he could click it back in place without annoying me, but being the gregarious person he was, Ken never missed an opportunity to be on stage.


We had gone out for the evening with two other couples: Sofia, Don, Jean and Dick.  Without planning ahead we ended up at a Greek Traverna near Jack London Square in Oakland, California where one of the waiters danced balancing a table on his forehead.  We were all duly impressed, but it was the beautiful belly dancer who got the attention of every diner.  She sashayed across the dance floor for several minutes then floated from table to table flipping her hips toward the male customers who obediently tucked a bit of folding money into her low-riding skirt or skimpy top.

Swaying over to our table, she gyrated the lower portion of her body right in front of Ken.  All of her babbles, bangles and bright shinny beads jingled in an effort to gain his attention, which she already had.  From his wallet he pulled a credit card asking, “American Express?”  An old joke, but everyone laughed.


She wasn’t through with him.  The next phase was to choose a partner and teach him how to belly dance. Beckoning Ken forward he leaped from his chair, removed his coat, tie and belt, and laid something strange on the table next to the rest of his props.  A born clown (and good sport) he followed every command even to the gyrating of his hips at a few tables coaxing a dollar or two from laughing women.

Meanwhile, I held my head in my hand pretending he didn’t belong to me while Jean leaned forward to examine the strange object he had placed on the table, and then she burst out laughing.  “At first I thought it was his chewing gum,” she giggled, “but it’s his tooth.”

What was he thinking?  To this day I don’t know, nor did he ever fully explain.  He just removed anything politely removable – just having fun – and he did have fun.  That was but one of the many joys of having him for a husband.  He was fun.  For years our friends told the story over and over, especially Jean who still tried to curb her laughter, but couldn’t.


Unfortunately, the years continued the wear and tear on even the best-kept teeth.  That was his first bridge, and there were more to come during a lifetime.  Whenever Ken needed additional bridgework, including extending the one-tooth bridge, and silently remembering the belly dancer at the Greek Traverna, not to mention all that clicking, I told Ken and Dr. T. that any further bridgework had to be permanently attached.

With his Alzheimer’s I am very grateful that, for my purely selfish reasons with unforeseen benefits, his teeth are all securely attached in his mouth.  No dentures to find and no bridges to lose.  Occasionally he still smiles at me and he is my fun husband once again, and at times he gives me a wink making me wonder if there isn’t a bit of mischief somewhere in his lost and clouded mind.  I hope so.

Originally posted 2012-09-30 03:06:41.

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