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I finally understand why some people feel the need to make up a story to explain an obvious injury. A cast on your leg, a scar across your arm… a chipped tooth.

I’m no stranger to dental drama. My front teeth are fake, mostly — one of them is a porcelain crown, the other is bonded with whatever gooey stuff they paste on what’s left of a tortured tooth and make bone-hard with that Dr. Who-style blue light wand.

But it had been a very long time since I’d had any mouth trauma, at least of the sort that fueled my dental anxiety. My dentist had even weened me off of pre-meds, and though my neck still ached like crazy from tension during a cleaning, at least I was no longer freaking out in the chair.

This week, when I walked in the front door to my dentist’s office, I was amped out on stress and holding half a tooth in my hand. Don’t ask, please, I thought when the friendly faces at the front greeted me. “We’re so happy we could get you in right away,” said Diane, the friendliest of them all. I had called exactly ten minutes earlier, in a lisping panic.

“I just busthted my tooth and I have to emsthee an event tomorrow! Oh my God, I’m listhping! How can I emsthee with a listhp?”

I almost passed out with relief when she had told me to “Come right over” to the office conveniently located across the street from my home.

Once there, I could see the question on her face, but I refused to volunteer the information. Instead, I frantically thought of a viable story, something that sounded accidental, and not as stupid as that time I punched a hole in my lip with a hole-puncher because I was curious if it would go all the way through.

“Do you need this?” I proffered the piece of tooth in my hand, which I later found out didn’t contain a lick of calcium — it was that hardened resin, bonded to my tooth way before I graduated high school.

“No, thank you,” she said. I tried to turn away, but she held me with her gaze. “How did you do that?”

“I don’t know how to explain it,” I said. Crappy answer. I couldn’t think of anything, so I gave a pained expression, ran my tongue along the jagged tooth for the hundredth time in the last three seconds, and confessed: “It just happened,” I said. “I’ve been stressed lately, so I was kind of clicking my front teeth together, like a nervous tick, but not hard. And I just got home an hour ago from a day of meetings, sat down, had a cookie — my sister brought me a cookie from Uncle Biff’s, I’m so sorry I didn’t brush my teeth, but I was afraid of further breakage — and I ate it, and everything was fine, but then I took a sip of water, and did that tap thing, and felt a crunch. It just broke. Next thing I knew, I had tooth fragments in my mouth, like bits of rock.”

If the look on the faces of the ladies at the front desk was any indication, I really should have worked harder and made something up.

The bit of tooth I bit off.

The bit of tooth I bit off.

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