November 29, 2010

Tooth Trauma

Roughly two years ago, I had a bad cavity that unraveled in a series of tedious and horrifying trips to the dentist, and over the course of six months or so, involved the yanking of an otherwise happy tooth, chipping away at surrounding teeth, and installation of a bridge to make up for the lack of molar. I'm pretty sure my dentist spent a week at a Sandals resort as a result of my payments, and I may still owe him an additional pound of flesh. Because he wouldn't accept my gallon of tears or bushel of minutes of sleep lost/nightmares collected as payment.

For some reason, at each turn and twist of this saga, I turned into a weepy puddle of anxiety with each update. When they told me the tooth would have to go, I cried. Every time I made a payment, I cried. Every time an assistant said something kind and reassuring, I cried. Oddly enough, I never reacted this way to the painful parts- just the mental shocker parts.

It was probably the cost, plus guilt for sabotaging three years-worth of torture in the form of braces, combined with straight-up fear of the unknown and my bad habit of imagining the worst possible outcome. For example, I was given the choice between the triple-tooth bridge to cover the gap, or an implant which they attach to a metal bolt screwed into my gum and jaw.

The implant carried the risk of breaking through the upper palate, and as soon as my dentist Dr. Ebenezer Scrooge mentioned this, all I could see was my sad, collapsed face, unable to eat or drink or laugh again, all alone because my husband couldn't possibly love a crater-face wife. This, of course, made me cry in self-pity and horror. And so I went with the bridge option.

You'd think making a decision would calm me down a little, and when it came time to pull the troublemaker tooth I was mostly fine. The oral surgeon used local anesthetic and the whole procedure took less than ten minutes (although it's a little disturbing just how little effort it requires to yank out a molar).

But then, he left the room with my tooth full of emotional baggage, and I let out the breath I had been holding for two hours. As the assistant asked me a question I found I couldn't form a coherent sentence, what with the gasping sobs coming out of my mouth.

I felt bad for alarming her- "Are you okay? Does it hurt?"- and all I could do was shake my head while I cried. As I tried to choke out "I'm fine! I'm fine! I was just scared!" she wrapped her arm around my shoulder and patted my head, shushing me like a small child, consoling in her Russian accent, "Ch-ch-ch, it's okay, it's okay, don't cry! Your husband think we beat you!"

This made me laugh, and calmed me down pretty quickly. Even though the saga of dentist trips was just warming up, the worst of the weeping fits were over, since I had finally managed to wrap my head around the process.

A couple months later, me and my husband went to get our first tattoos together. Halfway through mine, the tattoo artist asked if it was hurting too much, and I informed him that four hundred dentist visits made the tattoo needle feel like puppy snuggles and angel kisses. No comparison.


  1. That story was great and you wrote it very well!

    I hate dentists. I hated them since as a child the one in my home town drilled me with too little pain killer. Then the one who pulled all 4 of my wisdom teeth in 1 appointment and practically knelt on my body to get traction to do it.

    Finally in my 40th year I found a dentist who used enough pain killer and laughing gas. She'd put ear phones over my ears, put the gas nozzle on my face and I'd take off on a brief trip listening to opera! I don't like the dentist still but that's much better.

  2. Anna--I want to see your tattoo! (Slowly catching up on google reader... merry christmas!)