Tag Archive: teeth

Year 5, Day 92

ice, morguefileWildDog is teething. So am I.

His mouth probably hurts more – I’m merely replacing a worn-out molar which is just about ready to fall out. There’s not much actual cutting involved, though the loosened tooth is a problem, and my bite will be uneven for some time. His tooth, an incisor, is working its way through the gum, and from the crying he is doing, it hurts.

I took Giraffe aside and explained what was happening, and he seemed considerably relieved to know it was normal and not a sign that his son was becoming a weakling or a coward. I also levitated – carefully – into the anvil of a thunderhead and collected a grass basket of ice crystals.

They use hides rather than woven stuffs for the most part, but WildDog seems quite content to chew on a thin piece of hide wrapped around a handful of ice crystals. I can even store the crystals, as I do frozen meat. Come to think of it, I could actually make ice with the heat pump. But I don’t really want to do it when the whole group is here; I’d be doing nothing but making ice for teething babies!

Songbird, Giraffe and Meerkat are all fascinated by the solid crystals that melt into water, and astounded that clouds have such stuff in them. I thought of explaining that the crystals are the seeds that make raindrops, but had second thoughts. I have already given them far too may ideas; there is no excuse for going further than necessary.

Jarn is a human-like alien who was stranded in Africa some 125,000 years ago. His story to date is on my author site, and is part of the remote background of my science fiction universe.

My science fiction is based on two species, the R’il’nai and Humans, and their crossbreds, the Ril’noids, living together. One of the major differences between the two parent species is in life span. The Humans have what we would consider a normal life span. The R’il’nai, while not immortal, do not age beyond maturity. A number of my characters have been alive for millennia. Crossbreds can show either pattern.

This leads to all kinds of interesting situations in the society. How do the two species interact, for instance? How many Humans would want to marry someone who would never grow old? How does a R’il’nian act toward someone he or she knows will grow old and die while the R’il’nian is still young? This is in the background of all of my plots.

Here, however, I am addressing a different problem.

Most of the cells in our bodies are constantly turning over. I can imagine a creature that looks and acts human with a near-infinite life span, except for one thing. Teeth.

Tooth enamel wears, and unlike skin, it is not constantly replaced from within. Modern dentistry can do a lot to repair wear, but I’m having to have enamel repairs already. Young mammals are born with two sets of tooth buds, one that grows into teeth suited for the small jaw of a juvenile; the second set adult sized, and that’s it. People who lived thousands of years would wear out their teeth. How to handle the problem?

The R’il’nai would have to have an essentially infinite number of replacement teeth. When a tooth was worn out, it would be shed much as a child sheds its milk teeth, and replaced by a new tooth. How? They must have some tooth stem cells in their jaws, just as we have blood stem cells in our bone marrow. Assuming that a tooth would last for 50 or 60 years, this would mean that the R’il’nai and non-aging R’il’noids are teething roughly every two or three years. I don’t think I’ve actually mentioned that, but if a R’il’noid seems to be in a particularly bad humor, he or she may be teething.

The shaman is not at all what I expected. In fact, I am starting to wonder if “shaman” is even the right translation of the word Songbird used.

It occurred to me after Songbird had left on her errand that she’d told me her people were in the habit of giving gifts of food to visitors. One thing I was sure they would treasure was salt – easy enough for me to get, simply by teleporting seawater to my shelter and boiling it down. I’d replenished my stock a fiveday ago, so it was simple to fill one of my smaller gourds with the precious substance.

What else? A sweet, sticky fruit from the jungle to the north, as far away as I have memorized teleport coordinates, was at first as strange to Songbird as it was to me, but after one cautious trial it became a favorite for both of us. It was easy enough to teleport to a memorized part of the jungle, and probe mentally for the right kind of tree with a feel of ripeness. I plucked a huge leaf, teleported the fruit onto it from one of the branches too slender for the small primates gorging on the tree’s bounty, and then teleported it and myself back to the shelter. Wild melons were ripening, too, and I plucked one to temper the sweetness of the jungle fruit.

Salt as a gift, fruit for refreshment. I placed both the salt and the leaf holding the fruit on a shelf out of Patches’ reach and looked downstream.

Four tiny figures were just visible. I thought the smallest was Songbird from the way she was dancing around the others. Two taller figures appeared to be assisting a third over the boulders lining the stream at that point. The shaman? It had never occurred to me that the shaman might have difficulty covering what Songbird had said was an hour’s walk.

As they came closer I recognized Songbird, and I thought the two taller figures must be her parents. Both wore tunics that appeared more decoration – or perhaps a way of carrying things while leaving their hands free — than clothing. The third figure was bent and smaller, and as they made their final approach I saw that the face was wrinkled and the mouth drawn in.

My people shed and grow teeth as they age, as often as needed. I lost one tooth when I first arrived, but by the time I found Songbird it was growing back. Do these people age, like animals? Is their life span so limited that they quit growing new teeth when they themselves quit growing? Did I misinterpret the awe and respect that colored Songbird’s emotions when she spoke the word I have been translating as “shaman?”

Jarn’s Journal is the fictitious journal of an alien stranded on Earth, in Africa, 125,000 years ago. His story is the remote backstory of the Confederation in which my published novels, Homecoming and Tourist Trap, are set. Jarn’s Journal from the time he crashed on Earth is being put on my author website as I write it.