Taffy, teeth, terror

I’m guessing that many of you aren’t familiar with Abba-Zaba. It’s an aggressively old-school candy, invented in 1922 and enjoying its height of popularity in the 1970s. It’s still around, available largely at specialty and retro candy shops. It’s a bar of white taffy filled with peanut butter. It’s delicious. It’s gooey. It’s lethal.

I loved them as a kid, when my mouth wasn’t a constellation of expensive dental work. And I got one in my Christmas stocking recently, either as a joyous surprise or a malicious joke. Either way, I was giddy. 

Still, considering the crowns in my mouth, I knew I was holding TNT. And yet, flinging caution to the wind, I unsheathed the sweet alchemy that is an Abba-Zaba, stripped it of its iconic checkered wrapper. I even paused to puzzle over the candy’s nonsense name: Abba-Zaba. Something about A to Z? Whatever. I took a bite.

I knew what I was doing. Or so I thought. I tried my best to keep the taffy away from my three crowns, sucking it and chewing mostly with my front teeth, almost rat-like. Peanut butter oozed and the sumptuous confection was kept under control, if you will. 

Evidently sustaining that exercise is next to impossible, because, pop, out went my rear right crown. I have to wonder what kind of glue they use on crowns — Elmer’s? 

I’m a numbskull. This is the second time a chewy candy has suctioned out a crown. Once a pink Starburst dislodged a crown with a swiftness that almost seemed spiteful. What just happened? I thought and then pulled out a gold beauty attached to a pink beast.

This time there it was, a silver crown, shiny, perplexed and despondent, all by its lonesome. It floated around my mouth before my tongue could catch it, frog-like. I cursed the Abba-Zaba, threw away the rest of it with a gulp of rue, a flash of ire, and sealed the crown in a plastic bag to bring to the inevitable dentist appointment. 

My dentist wasn’t familiar with Abba-Zaba until I educated her about its ravishing (ravaging?) delights. She confessed a mean proclivity for peanut butter. (Taffy, I presume, is anathema to dentists.) We both agreed I was a fool. Me to her: “I made the genius move of eating taffy.”

The good doctor, whose bedside manner is made of sprites and unicorns, glued it right back with a seamless dexterity that would make an orthodontist cry. (I almost cried, especially when I got the bill.) Pleased to report that weeks later my old crown is holding strong with the new adhesive, which I’ve been assured is not Elmer’s, rubber cement or school paste.

But my adventures at the dentist did not end there. Three weeks later — today — I had my biannual cleaning/check-up, something akin to a periodic colonoscopy, but, you know, about a thousand times better. The dentist mentioned to the hygienist that I had a crown reattached recently, but she mistakenly said it came out naturally.

And then, boom: “No, wait! He was eating taffy!” She chortled. And there I was, on my back, feet elevated part-way in the air, a paper baby-blue bib around my neck, smiling wanly and murmuring, “Yeah. It was an Abba-Zaba.”

It just dawned on me that the hygienist probably has no idea what in the world that is.