So, I currently possess three traits which, when combined, can make for some pretty unpleasant situations – bad teeth, a high pain threshold, and a knee-buckling, heart-racing, dry-heaving fear of dental procedures.
Now, I don’t know if it is physically possible for one to be born with bad teeth, but my own life experience has told me that it has to be. As a small child, I began visiting the dentist religiously – every six months. And every six months, without fail, the dentist would find a cavity.
Now, I should mention here that my mother was a world class sugar rationer. My brother and I were allowed very little sugar in any form – cookies, candy, ice cream, pretty much anything that would make a child’s eyes sparkle with the sheer joy of a potential sugar high. So, it wasn’t poor diet that caused my teeth to crumble like the delicious cookies we weren’t allowed to eat.
My mother, frustrated with having to drag my whiny little self to the dentist for fillings all the time, instituted a toothbrushing routine that we were made to follow. It involved an hourglass shaped egg timer. I hated that thing. My brother and I were forced to stand in front of the bathroom mirror brushing our teeth non-stop until all of the pink sand flowed from the top chamber to the bottom. No amount of toothpaste drool or sore arms could get us out of brushing until the last grain of sand had fallen. And you know what?
I still had cavities.
The dentist started sending me home with little pink tablets, which I was made to chew in order to show where the plaque was on my teeth so that I could see where to focus my rigorous brushing efforts.
And I still had cavities.
Fillings, surgeries, braces, root canals, more fillings – honestly, who could blame me for my general distaste for all things dental?
As an (anxiety-ridden) adult, I found ways to avoid going to the dentist. When my teeth would start to hurt, I took advantage of the aforementioned high pain threshold and employed a wide range of methods for ignoring the problem. When I was pregnant with Sir, I was stricken with an unbearable toothache. The pain was so intense at times, that I would literally fall to the floor. After several sleepless nights, I broke down and had an emergency root canal. Shortly after Sir was born, the same type of pain developed in the adjacent tooth and I had yet another root canal. But this time life got in the way and I never had the tooth restored.
It was fine for a while. The temporary filling held and all was right with the world. And then, one day, as I was eating a turkey sandwich, the whole thing just broke right at the gumline. I was horrified and hugely embarrassed, but I decided to hide it rather than face the dentist. I mastered the art of talking out of the side of my mouth. I never smiled fully. And I would always do my best to sit to the right of people so they wouldn’t accidentally catch a glimpse of my awful disfigurement.
Recently, I have been experiencing some very intense pain coming from two teeth that had lost their fillings (yeah, all those fillings that were placed years ago when I was a kid, are now starting to fail). For a while, I quietly subsisted on a diet of Advil and silent-agony. Then, the sleeplessness started. I knew I had to do something.
Fast forward to two days ago.
There I was, sitting in a dentist’s chair with my heart nearly beating out of my chest – toes curled, hands clenched – awaiting the bad news. And bad it was. Four of my teeth are a total loss. Two wisdom teeth and two molars (the ones causing my pain) are broken beyond repair and have to go. Even worse, the dentist was fairly sure that my other broken tooth was also a loss and that I would need an extraction and an implant (unless, of course, I wanted to spend the rest of my days half-smiling and jockeying for position in social situations). He asked me to come back so that he could take a closer look before making a final decision though.
Fast forward to this morning.
There I was, sitting in the same dentist’s chair – slightly less frantic, but still quite scared – awaiting the possibly bad news. The dentist drilled, he inspected, he drilled some more, he sighed, he took a brief break to see another patient, he came back and drilled some more. Did I mention that I didn’t have Novocaine during all of this? Because I didn’t. Finally, the tooth was drilled down to what was considered ‘keepable’. He said it would be a challenge, but he thought that he could construct a new tooth for me.
And (with Novocaine this time) he did!
In less than an hour and for about 10% of the cost of an extraction/implant, this AMAZING dentist was sending me on my way with an actual functional tooth! It’s a little smaller than my original tooth and it’s not quite as strong, but it’s a tooth! And I highly doubt that anyone who didn’t know that it wasn’t a real tooth could even tell the difference. I am so thankful!
Now, I just have the rest of my bad teeth to contend with. But at least I can smile through the pain now.
illustration : bad teeth by yours truly