Supernumerary Teeth: What’s Califragilistic About Them?
Supernumerary Teeth: What’s Califragilistic About Them?
Statistically, it’s more common in males than females, usually includes only one or two extra teeth, and surprisingly it affects about 3.5% of the population.
Never were the words ‘supernumerary’ and ‘hyperdontia’ flung around in a particular primary school playground in the early 1970s, but a fascination for the strange and unusual was a perpetual state of being. Out of about 250 kids was one who sported three rows of teeth in their upper jaw and two rows in their lower: a total of at least 12 extra teeth. They were often called to display them in a way that should have been reserved for a dentist and sadly never was.
It must have been painful on every level, and to this day I revere that gutsy acceptance.
While on the topic of super words, it’s pretty supercalifragilisticexpialidocious that Richard Sherman, one half of the songwriting team that gave us that Mary Poppins tune, is still kicking in 2023 at the age of 95.
Now that was a primary school tongue-twister, and almost a teeth-bender.
For the uninitiated, he and his older brother Robert were a masterful merger that created more film musical song scores than any humans in the western world.
AI could eventually change that, and the most prolific songwriter is Indian national Asha Boshie (with an astounding 25,000 recordings) but without the Sherman Brothers, Disney wouldn’t have known what to do with itself between 1960 and 1973.
For better or worse, in those thirteen years, 27 films and 24 television productions spouted 200 Sherman songs that earned the brothers four Oscars and a Grammy.
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is a 14-syllable compound word (and a song) the brothers claim to have concocted for the 1964 Mary Poppins movie. Its variant, Supercalafajalistickespeealadojus (and a song) was written by Gloria Parker and Barney Young in 1949, and recorded by the Arabian Knights. The subsequent copyright lawsuit fell on deaf ears because as it turns out, student journalist Helen Herman first coined supercaliflawjalisticexpialidoshus in a column published in The Syracuse Daily Orange (an independent student newspaper) in 1931.
In it, Herman muses that her made-up word includes “all words in the category of something wonderful” and “though rather long and tiring before one reaches its conclusion, … once you arrive at the end, you have said in one word what it would ordinarily take four paragraphs to explain.”
According to Richard Lederer in his book Crazy English, its definition is “Atoning for being educable through delicate beauty.”
His conclusion is thus: super (above), cali (beauty), fragilistic (delicate), expiali (to atone), and docious (educable).
Whether that’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the Oxford English Dictionary defines supercalifragilisticexpialidocious as simply “Amazing; wonderful” – which makes more sense if you’re not trying to write an entire book on the craziness of the English language where word count counts.
So it seems that Robert and Richard Sherman lived in Fantasyland even before they wrote It’s A Small World (After All) for the Disney Magic Kingdom attraction – purported to be the most publicly played song in history. It’s a bit of cheat claim really; it was never a hit single, and it was (and still is) rarely played on radio. In 14 years, Spotify hasn’t even quite found 11 million streaming reasons for it; while The Weekend’s Blinding Lights has inspired 3.8 billion of them since November 2019.
It’s not like anywhere but Disneyland wants it literally blaring 1200 times a day in California, Florida, Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong. But a record record’s a record (after all) and we live in a time where counting counts.
Truth doesn’t, but numbers certainly do. Think anything – from politics to bitcoin to multinationals and social media – when numbers numb, actuality is anaesthetised.
Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino, and Duke University’s Professor of Psychology and Behavioural Economics, Dan Ariely, became famous for their long-term research into why we lie, and why we bend the truth when we’re not lying. Ariely has written thirteen books that swirl, dance and delve into truth, dishonesty and the muddiness of misbeliefs: three of them New York Times bestsellers.
Recently, they’ve both been accused of being deceitful about their data.
In less than four paragraphs and about as surprising as no sex or nudity in Mary Poppins, the cheating centred on academia’s financial reward system. In 2018, Professor Francesca Gino was the proud author of Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and Life.
We like amusement in our parks, and ironies that are flat-out funny.
Truth is often easily steamrollered.
Maybe because of some prehistoric part of our brain that remains enamoured by any number greater than a slaughterable herd, we love the supercalifragilimysticism of hundreds and thousands, millions and billions; trillions, quintillions, sextillions, septillions, octillions, nonillions, and decillions.
And if that doesn’t cover it, we have the ficticious ‘zillions’ because enough is never enough. ‘Gazillions’ expresses how ga-ga we get over numbers. You can’t make that up, and yet we have.
We’re excited by the most. We love the lion’s share. The more the more has moxie; we marvel at the many of many.
Except when it comes to our teeth.
As I saw in real life all those decades ago, supernumerary teeth can be of different shapes, appear in the arches, and/or directly behind or adjacent to those that should be there and have already erupted.
It can happen with both baby teeth, and permanent teeth.
Essentially linked to hereditary conditions, although not always, technically, there are five shapes in the supernumerary teeth category.
Not that there’ll be a test at the end, but the easy ones to remember are supplemental (it just looks like the tooth it’s forced its way next to or behind), tuberculate because it looks like a tube, and conical (never to be confused with comical) because it resembles an inverted cone.
Complex odontoma defines the random grouping of tooth-like tissue; and compound odontoma resembles several teeth having joined together.
Dental x-rays will identify any remaining below the gum line and yet to appear, and surprisingly, not all supernumerary teeth require intervention.
In the cases that do, it’s related to being unhappy with the aesthetics, eating discomfort, and difficulty with the proper brushing and flossing routine that supports a cavity-free, healthy gum existence.
Sometimes simply extracting the extra teeth is all that’s needed. For others, orthodontic or cosmetic treatment become part of the remedy.
It’s my enduring hope that the hyperdontia, hyper-cheerful kid from 1972 found an amazing career, a wonderful dentist, and lives a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious life.
Fingers crossed (and not behind my back) that that’s the truth, and their supernumeraries no longer count.
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