I have a talent. I’m really good at knocking out my front teeth. I’ve been practicing since I was little. I think I have knocked them out or damaged them 5 times. I have never broken any other bones, but my front teeth have taken quite a beating. I began when I was about two years old. I was with my mother at the bank or post office in London, and the floor was solid marble – as floors of old important buildings tend to be. I was sitting in a pram (stroller), and stood up when my mother had her back turned for just a second, leaned towards the handle and tipped the whole thing over and landed on my face on the marble floor. My cute little front teeth were a little wobbly, but they stayed put. This happens to be one of my very first memories.


Fast forward to second grade. The same year as my traumatic 17th of May. My baby teeth have been replaced by my real teeth. I’m still a thumb sucker ,and my protruding front teeth foreshadow a future of long term braces. Or so I thought. We are having recess, and we are playing tag on the tarmac  school playground. I trip, fall forward, and – yes, you guessed it – land on my two front teeth. Both my front teeth are now loose, and my left front tooth cracks across the middle. The dentist suspects that the root has been damaged, but wants to wait and see. The tooth goes grey.

Three years later I am climbing the ropes in PE. Somehow I lose my grip, and fall down. On my face. Why I never used my hands to brace myself remains a mystery. This time my left front tooth falls out and breaks in two where the crack was. This is the beginning of years of regular dentist visits. The tooth is dead and I  need stitches beneath my upper lip and a root canal. The dentists put the larger part of my tooth back in, and I have a metal retainer to keep everything in place for a while. At least I couldn’t suck my thumb anymore. My nickname becomes ‘Halvtann’ (halftooth)


This is the only picture of me smiling with my teeth showing from that period. I still to this day mostly smile with my mouth closed… old habits die hard.

Three years later they manage to build the tooth up so it is the same size as the other one. But it is blue. And then we move to Switzerland. No more free dentistry…

Joanna as a teen on balcony in Switzerland

For my 16th birthday, my grandparents give me a porcelain cap.

At 17, I  am helping my mother change a light bulb in a heavy glass dome plafond light. I manage to drop it on my face as I am lifting it down. The cap is knocked loose, but not out.

A few months later I move back to Norway to finish school. And right before graduation, I walk into a metal signal box hanging on a traffic light post and knock the cap completely out. No, I was not drunk. Just very clumsy.

The porcelain cap could not be saved, and the gums were so damaged that there was nothing to fasten a new cap to. So now I had to have a bridge made. That meant that the two teeth next to my left front tooth had to be chiseled down to two small stubs so the bridge could be attached to them. Cute. The dentist who made the bridge gave me a Hollywood smile. My father thought I looked like a horse. (Thanks…) But they were nice and white and whole.


My bridge is nearing retirement age now. The three teeth are still white and whole, but they don’t really match the rest of my teeth, since mine have yellowed with age. So now I am saving up for new teeth! (which makes me feel ancient!)

Luckily, I have also finally learned to brace myself with my arms and hands when I fall. Because, yes, I’m still super clumsy…