On my last visit to the dentist, Melissa (my Dental Hygienist) and I begin a conversation, always awkward for me. What are you doing these days, she asks. A full anatomy study of my 5-year-old niece, I gurgle out. I am always impressed she can decipher what I say and in her usual way she begins to share information about teeth. We have primary teeth and permanent teeth.
Melissa: At the age of 5 and 6 children start to grow their permanent teeth.
Me: (…gurgle) Erupt, I understand (gurgle…gurgle) teeth erupt.
Melissa: Yes, they do!
A harsh word I decide while Melissa names off the various teeth and informs me about how many and where they sit. I am always interested in what draws people to their work. Melissa loves teeth! She has her daughter’s pano and would I like to see it. I don’t know what this means but when the image comes up I understand pano is short for panoramic [view of the teeth].
I receive a quick explanation of what I am looking at and a fascinating lesson on the particulars. I can’t believe the quantity and layers of teeth in a child’s mouth! I’ve seen images of this before but never really understood what I was looking at, until now. The photo is marvelously beautiful and uh…creepy.
While going through school Melissa had to carve out each tooth. Based on what I know about observation and drawing, I can understand carving out each tooth offers unique knowing and connection to its intricacy. Where are your carvings? Do you have them? She doesn’t recall what she did with them. If I carved out each tooth at some point in my life, I would know where each one was! – each and every single one of them!!
Melissa gives me a clean bill of health, a blue toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and generously offers me a copy of her daughter’s pano. I smile easily.
Back at the studio … I lay the pano into the composition. I can honestly say I’ve struggled ever since to make it beautiful. Teeth are practical and unique in their structure, they serve us well. They start the digestive process and perhaps I should stay with that. But they also have symbolic associations connected to self-image. We see them as a signs of health, attractiveness and beauty. And they connect to the energies of expression and communication.
Here is where the image sits today. I still work on it.
Melissa has supplied me with information and images before, which I have put to good use.
Below are earlier studies of single teeth. The pano is by far the most challenging and the most fascinating. Thanks again Melissa! Gotta love those teeth!