Monica Bielanko
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The Life and Times of Tiny Incisor

I don't mind telling you that I have veneers. I didn't get them because I was trying to be a supermodel or anything. I was in high school, coming off a really intense multi-year affair with a hardcore set of braces, and my dentist recommended the veneers because I have really small side teeth. Not my front teeth, but the two teeth flanking my front teeth. What are those teeth called? Lateral Incisors. Thank you Tooth Anatomy Chart.

So I've always had tiny incisors. Which should totally be my rap name: Tiny Incisor. Tiny Incisor in da hizz-ouse. Let's turn this mutha out, bitchez!!

Did reading that last middle-aged-white-woman-using-nineties-rap-lingo sentence make you as uncomfortable as it makes me? Awkward pause.

Anyway. Tiny incisors pretty much suck because they make your two front teeth look largish even though they are of the normal front teeth variety. And largish front teeth are also called buck teeth and we all know it blows to have buck teeth regardless of how cool Bugs Bunny was, is and always will be.

Here is a photo of your gal Tiny Incisor circa 1987.

See the tiny incisors? Or are they too tiny for you to locate? They are there, right next to the largish looking Central Incisors (thank you Tooth Anatomy Chart). Another shot of Tiny Incisor (what up, What Up, WHAT UP, YO!) when I was in the 5th grade.

I wasn't really bothered by my tiny incisors until the dentist brought them to my attention when discussing my need for braces. Thus began the braces years:

Years of braces-wearing that felt like lifetimes of braces-wearing. I got them put on the day before 8th grade started and wore them through my sophomore year of high school. I didn't kiss a boy for the first time until after the braces were installed and so my first non-braces kiss didn't occur until I was, like, 17 or something. Yeah. A lot of time with those bad boys. Lotta time covering my mouth with my hand while eating and then rushing to the bathroom to pick the food out of the metal in my mouth with a safety pin. Good times. I had rubber bands, the whole thing. But, as you're probably aware, while they can straighten your teeth and even pull them together, braces don't actually grow your teeth, it's true! And so even when the braces were finally, blessedly removed, the tiny incisors remained.

I don't remember being super upset by my tiny incisors, even in high school, but my dentist was apparently really bothered and fashioned a retainer with two false teeth attached to it. Oh my God, I cannot even believe I wore that thing, but yeah, I wore a retainer that fit over my teeth that had two false teeth that perfectly capped my tiny incisors and made me look like I had a full set of choppers. Aesthetically speaking, it really was a pretty neat solution for a self-conscious teenager who couldn't afford thousands of bucks for veneers. Although my girlfriends were forever mocking me and my "dentures" and the actual mechanics of taking the thing in and out kind of sucked. You can imagine how well it all went over when heading out on a date and hoping for a little suck face action.

BOY: You look so pretty tonight, Monica.

ME: Really? You think so?

BOY: (Moves in for a kiss)

ME: Hold on a second while I take out my dentures. There! That's better! What? What's wrong? Hey! Come back!

The whole thing just sucked and was exhausting and made me absolutely dread going to the dentist/orthodontist. And then, at some point, I don't remember exactly when but it must've been before I graduated, I finally got veneers put on my tiny incisors.

Look! Evidence I am scholarly and such! And see, there is a full set of choppers with a coupla veneers covering the tiny incisors. And life was good. Until I was around 21 and another busybody dentist told me that my veneers didn't match my two front teeth, my Central Incisors, if you will. He said I would look so much better if I got veneers over my front four teeth so they all matched. So, being a grown-up working girl who could afford her own veneers (or a payment plan that would help her afford her own veneers) I got veneers put over my front teeth.

Shiny white veneers, yay! But, if you have veneers you know what a grueling ordeal the whole thing is. They grind down your teeth until you look like a Ferengi on Star Trek and then they fit you with a temporary set of choppers that feel like you've got a set of wooden teeth rattling around in your head while you wait for the final, porcelain veneers to be made.

If you can come out of the whole experience and not be freaked out by the dentist and teeth and drills and such then I commend you. I am not that person. Plus, my temporary teeth fell out all the time. Like, can you imagine being on a date with a guy and you bite into a burrito and your fake tooth comes out? Is still, in fact, biting into the burrito when you have long since put the burrito down on the plate in horror. Yes, people, this shit happened for two weeks while I waited for my permanent veneers. It may sound trivial, but at 21, when you're trying to be sexy dammit, it just sucks droopy, gray-haired old man balls for your teeth to fall out and the guy to shit his pants over the snaggletooth he suddenly finds himself sitting across from, not to mention the tooth just chilling in the burrito he just bought said snaggletooth in hopes of getting in its pants later.

So the dentist finally puts my permanent veneers on just in time for a trip to Mexico. While in Mexico I was smiling and feeling really great about my teeth when one of the guys on the trip says, "Did you bump your front tooth? It looks gray." Sure enough, one of the brand spanking new veneers was off-color. Like a significantly darker color than the other three white teeth. I was so miserable. I had to go back to the dentist, he had to knock those four veneers off, like he basically had to break them out of my mouth and start the whole damn process over again. Temporary wooden teeth that fell out, the whole thing.

At this point my nightmares became all about teeth falling out, being toothless, swallowing my teeth, falling on cement and landing on my teeth which shatter out of my head, people breaking out my teeth with hammers - that kind of thing. But I finally got the permanent veneers and life was good albeit I now have intense teeth trauma and a very healthy fear of dental visits.

In 2005 I had the veneers replaced and have been rocking those same veneers until now. While the veneers have been okay, I still have nightmares about breaking my teeth. Intellectually I know the veneers are solid but it still bothers me that they're even there, that I just don't have my very own nice, square teeth. But I have no choice unless I want to be Tiny Incisor forever. And actually, considering they ground down my two front teeth when they put all four veneers in place, unless I land a starring role as a Ferengi on Star Trek, I think I'm pretty much going to have to rock four veneers until I die. And that's cool because nowadays a lot of people have veneers, I think. Do they? I mean, it seems like I'm always reading about Lindsay Lohan or Hilary Duff or someone getting their teeth done.

So all was well and then it happened. Worst nightmare of the past decade of my life comes true. I went to bed with a mouth full of teeth on Friday night. Nothing unusual, just reading a little and then watching some TV before turning off the lamp and yet when I woke up I looked in the mirror and saw this:

The nightmare cometh true and teeth horror continues. Can someone please explain to me how you can chip a tooth while sleeping? I mean, seriously?!

Reader Comments (26)

So funny but so not funny. I feel for you. Also, this does not bode well for my 12 year old daughter. She chipped half her front tooth off in third grade. She's had a fake tooth ever since that doesn't match the other front tooth. "The Plan" is to get braces first, then a set of veneers so the two front teeth match. I'm sad over what she's going to have to endure. I'm sad over what my back account is going to have to endure. Stupid teeth.

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWendy P.

I also belong to the "I have no idea when/how I chipped my front tooth" club. Although I do NOT belong to the "I looked super cute even with braces" club, so I am super jealous of you.

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate

One of my veneers fell out when I bit into a DONUT!! I called my dentist, and he told me to stick it back on with vaseline. His technician also recorded the color of my real teeth wrong, so my temporary veneers were--no joke--the color of a manila envelope. She painted it a more toothsome color, and remarked, 'You're lucky I'm good with paint.' I wanted to reply, 'You're lucky I'm a CPA instead of a lawyer.'

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara

I have never had any major dental work done but I have had numerous teeth nightmares. Most of which feature my teeth turning to sand in my mouth. They say that it means you feel overwhelmed by responsibility. Who knows.

I can feel your pain, sort of. I have always had a very slight gap between one of my central incisors and one of my also smallish lateral incisors (thanks for the dental anatomy lesson LOL). Somehow over the last year or so this gap has grown to something like 5mm or more??? How the hell does that happen? I have looked at old photos and don't even notice the gap. Now? It's all I see every time I smile! It's driving me crazy! The only way I'll fix it is braces. At 33 I'm already trying to come to grips with the fact that I'm aging at light speed and the grey hairs that I started getting at 18 (thanks mom) are planning a full scale attack to overtake my brunette babies. I could get them to fill the gap with the material they use for fillings, thereby making my central incisor look bigger than the other one and then not be satisfied forcing me to resort to option 3 anyhow, which is veneers.

I'm actually considering it. Not entirely sure of the cost involved though. Is it really pricey for the top 4 teeth?

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Ouch! Do you grind or grit your teeth while you're sleeping? I do, and I've ground down part of a tooth. If you grit your teeth, that could be a possible reason.

oh yeah,,,tooth chip.. One of those unforseen events which can, if you let it, make you miserable. Afterall...your smile IS one of your best features..Well at least it wasn't a diagonal chip...a snaggle tooth...but still, so annoying... the kind of thing that happens just when you start saving up or at least getting ahead. It's always something comes up to rob your little cash stash and put you back in the negative zone. For me it's a damn bee sting which has my arm all blown out like Popeye. No matter, my arms with the swaggy curtains and leopard spets rarely saw daylight anyway but teeth...well you could try filing the edges...well maybe not. It's really not that noticable...really. It's not, Anyway...I was gonna tell you that there is this credit card called CARE CREDIT and it's good for dental work...just incase you don't have dental insurance. They give you so many months interest free I think. In the meantime, it really doesn't look bad at all...really. it's doesn't.

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergina

Monica -- I have four veneers too, and I have them because I got hit in the mouth as a kid. That didn't chip my fact I recovered very quickly. But then...13 years later, suddenly had unbelievable pain in my right front tooth. Had a horrible, horrible night, then called the dentist at 7 a.m. Went in and when he saw the x-ray, he SPRINTED into the room with a shot of novocaine ready. Shot the shit out of my mouth and then yelled at me for not calling him at home at 3 a.m. He could tell how much pain I was in from the x-ray. One tooth (lateral incisor) was dead and had such a huge abscess in it that it was making the tooth next to it hurt like hell. Apparently when a tooth experiences "trauma" (such as when I got hit in the mouth), the nerve slowly dies then gets infected. So I had a root canal in the lateral incisor. Then several months later I had a root canal in my right front tooth. They did the root canals from the back, so I still had my natural teeth. And then 5 years they started to yellow...badly. The choice was to have the root canals redone every 5 years (NO THANK YOU) or get veneers. I opted for veneers.

I had great temporaries -- no one even noticed. I think they were fiberglass and they cemented those suckers on there so well that they really struggled to get them off.

I've had my four veneers for 9 years with no problems (which, having been said, I'll probably wake up all snaggle-toothed in the morning!). I had no idea when I went in for the veneers that they were going to grind the teeth down so much though. It freaked me out!!!!

Love my veneers, though. Absolutely love them. And got the four for the same reason you said -- getting the right two would have been bad since veneers don't yellow and my natural teeth would have continued to do so. It was expensive, but I'm SO glad I had them done!!

But I do worry about what would happen if one fell off, say, in the middle of when I'm lecturing at the front of a classroom. YIKES! But I have a few friends who are dentists who have told me that many people's veneers last for 30 years. That's what I'm hoping for!

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristin


May 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

I love stories like this. Love them. I don't have any teeth horror stories but I do have an eye story. I was born with Strabismus. (both eyes crossed) Back in the 70's there was only a handful of doctors that operated successfully on the muscles and one was in the town where I lived. Palm Springs. (thank you Dr. Ellerman!, he's retired) I was about 18 months for my first one and I was allergic to the stitches, which back then were a form of "cat gut" like tennis strings. I cried for 48 hours until they figured it out. They had to go back and REDO the incisions. Anyway....I had to have one more surgery when I was in my 20's to pull the right eye over a tiny bit. My doctor said "I'll buy you a steak dinner if anyone ever knows you were born with Strabismus". My eyes are perfect now. I love modern medicine.

May 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCassie


May 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

Oh my word. That first dentist, the one who INSISTED that you needed veneers for your supposedly-bizarrely small side incisors, should be sued. Then he should be shot. Then possibly sued again. Okay, fine, so possibly it DID somewhat even out your smile, but Monica, your teeth were just FINE BEFORE. I take the point that braces are a great thing for achieving nice straight teeth. But veneers for anyone who doesn't have serious orthodontic problems is just madness, particularly someone who is a lovely, normal-looking young person.

And as for the dentist who persuaded you to *file down your perfect, expensively-straightened* front teeth to replace them with veneers. I actually think he should be jailed on some kind of torture grounds.

Your poor thing. No wonder you're a bit obsessed by losing teeth - that chip isn't terrible by the way, yes it warrants attention, but it's not the end of the world.

Please find another, decent, honest dentist to sort this out forever!

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

I don't have veneers, but I chipped one of my front bottom teeth in that exact same way: I'm not an expert, but I would bet you're grinding your teeth .. (that's what I had done). I got fitted for a mouthguard and it's much much better. Do you ever wake up with a sore or aching jaw/side of your face? That's another sign. My dentist tells me it's because I don't deal with my stress. I don't know if that's the case, but I can tell you that I probably grind through those damned mouthguards about every 4mths. Yay.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLee BH

...Whatever, veneers, teeth.....blah blah....

All I saw was WOW! You look HOT in that Graduation photo!!!!

(i'll go back in now and read the post...wink!)

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDan

I have the exact same issue - tiny "peg" laterals that make my already large-ish front teeth look gargantuan. They never bothered me until every single movie and television actor started getting veneers and all of a sudden I'm horrified by them. Unfortunately, I grind my teeth like a mofo, so I'm "not a good candidate" for veneers. I have no choice but to rock my bugs bunny teeth, and keep my mouth closed in pictures, which, after spending all of junior high and half of high school in braces, is really just fantastic.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

Serge always looks dirty. Why do you like him?

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteranon

Go away, Penelope. You are obviously obsessed with my family and need some help. You gotta stop, girlfriend. You're embarrassing yourself. As you know from reading me for years now, I once found myself on the sad end of an internet entanglement with someone I only knew from the internet and, believe me, the more you check in here the farther down the hole you fall and it feels like shit. You hate yourself for doing it but it all spirals out of control. But you've gotta stop the bullshit or just keep it to the hate site, at least. Seriously, get a hold of yourself. You're an adult, right? Step back and re-evaluate what you're spending your time doing.

May 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterMonica

First of all Serge's "dirtiness" is one (awesomely sexy) part of his overall appeal- from one anon to another. (sticking out tongue) Secondly, girl did you NOT ever have an awkward phase? Sheesh woman it is not fair, Your new chipped veneer looks a bit vampirish, making it both current, and hot. I have nightmares of losing teeth quite often, my shrink said it has to do with a fear of "losing" your roots, childhood, your kids childhood something of that nature.


May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErin

My dentist suggested veneers on my last visit almost two years ago; I have been avoiding going back, even for a cleaning, and I've been going to the same dentist for decades.

I wouldn't have even noticed your tiny incisors in the "before" pictures. Dentists (eyeroll, sigh).

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanis

I too have "peg" laterals--though you are far prettier with yours than I was! My Dad has 'em, my youngest sister has 'em. I just have fake teeth caps on them. They are permanent--and are the same color as my "real" teeth. At the moment as I am getting older, argh, my gums are receding a bit so I will have to get the caps fixed at some point. Wonder if the dentist (who I am TERRIFIED of) will say I need veneers? the idea of grinding my teeth down is given me the heebiejeebies.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBEE

First of all, echoing sentiment from above - you look smokin' in that graduation pic! :)
Secondly, I'm sorry you had to go through all that.
Third - I often have nightmares about my teeth falling out too, but I don't have veneers or had to go through anything you did. I wonder why.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonica F

I have a thing about teeth so I almost passed out reading this (something about the word 'ground'...)

That said I really liked the Monica in days of yore pics - fun!

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

Ugh. So sorry about the veneer, man.

PS: Serge is hot.

May 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersweetney

Nightmare!!! I too have four veneers, on my front teeth and those incisors. I had a gap between my front teeth and then a gap on one side. Hideous. I finally decided o get veneers when I was 26. Best thing I ever did but it's gruelling getting them done. My teeth were filled to look like spikes... Nice. And I was presenting kids tv then so I had to carry on workin with a mouth full of sores and spiky teeth!! I didn't even get the temporary ones. Then I felt like a horse when the veneers were stuck on. 3 years later two days before my secret marriage I was pulling a plug with my teeth, from a computer lead and the whole veneer broke, like a false nail. They were able to put in the single veneer though, they didn't have to take them all out. I dread having to go through the process again in a few years.... I grind my teeth in my sleep so I wear a fetching clear mouth guard so I don't chip teeth.... I have already worn all my back teeth down from years of stressed out grinding, done it since I was a kid, so invest in a hot mouth guard. I combine with eye mitt things to block the light and earplugs too for a good nights sleep.

I wonder why we don't have much sex...... anyway, hope it gets fixed soon Hun. Mouth guard it up!!!

May 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCrummy mummy

I know this post is an old one, but I recently got old bonding on a chipped tooth replaced with a veneer, and I came online to look for veneer stories - oh how this blog made me laugh! Your teeth look gorgeous, but they also looked gorgeous before :-)

I just wanted to ask you - do your veneers feel like normal teeth? Do they feel natural? Because I'm quite concerned. A few months ago, I had one veneer fitted to my front tooth, and whilst it looks great - the shape is perfect, the colour blends really well with the existing teeth, and no one can tell it is a veneer - I just don't like the way it feels. It feels uncomfortably thick, like its too big for my mouth (although it doesn't LOOK big, it just feels it). I'm always aware of it when I talk and when I smile, and this is upsetting me because the bonding I used to have on it, although not as great cosmetically as the veneer, always felt totally natural. This veneer, on the other hand, doesn't feel like a natural tooth at all - it feels very fake.

Just wanted to ask if your veneers felt natural and like your own teeth straight away, or did they take some getting used to?

July 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa

I know this post is a few years old, but I found it trying to talk myself out of resenting my left lateral incisor for giving me an asymmetrical smile. I have small gaps in all my front teeth, and one of my central incisors is ever so slightly longer than the other. I don't mind that though- I've always felt it gave me character. I'm a teeth person- the first thing I noticed about my husband was his teeth and I've been in love with him and his teeth since I was 12 (over 20 years now)- but I love funny teeth best- that is, teeth that are different, even and sometimes especially snaggled or shaped oddly.

But this one tooth of mine bugs me. It looks like it's missimg. It's turned sideways and is tiny, almost invisible, like it's halfway dipped into another dimension. There's already a gap between it on both sides and it turning that way exaggerates the gap. If it were just a hair larger and turned facing the front it wouldn't be so bad. And it actually hurts, like its unnaturally twisted.

Anyhow, you've turned my tiny left lateral incisor hatred around, or at least sideways. Your before photos remind me of Emma Watson- i agree that the first dentist was utterly criminal for interfering with your gorgeous smile, and the second dentist as well for saying the veneers didn't match and putting you through all that- ridiculous! They were pretty! So I supposed I'll putt own self consciousness away and listen to my husband and kids when they tell me my tooth is perfectly imperfect.

January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNonnymouse

I think small lateral incisors look super cute!! I can think of several friends and celebrities who have small lateral incisors and are the most beautiful and adorable people I can think of. So just saying for all of you out there who worry about their appearance :)

April 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

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