Monday, December 05, 2005

Teeth and Bridges

There was a New Moon last Thursday, December 1. New Moons symbolize New Beginnings. If you want to have the heavens on your side, so to speak, start a new venture on the day of the New Moon.

My dentist appointment last week was not fun, and it was not painless. However, it was not excruciating either. I went to the guy my old dentist had recommended several years ago, who specializes in freaked-out phobics like me. The staff was as compassionate and supportive as I had hoped they would be. I learned that in spite of my not having been to a dentist in seven years, and in spite of my lack of flossing, I still have excellent bones, and my teeth are not on the verge of falling out. Everyone was surprised. I smugly mentioned that when I buried my grandmothers last year, in their mid-90’s, they both had full sets of strong, healthy teeth. “You’re very lucky,” the dentist said. “Good genetics,” I agreed.

However, I do have cavities in my molars. Eight of them. One suspicion confirmed. And, yes, my sealants have long worn away. Two suspicions confirmed. So I have to go back there in a week and a half, and have one side of my mouth worked on. I image they’ll want to finish the second side a week or so later, but I haven’t made that appointment yet.

God fucking dammit. Eight fillings. I've never had a cavity in my life until now.

I’m ok with this. I’ll be scared when I get there, but for right now, I’m ok. My new dentist just happens to have helped to invent The Wand. He also uses a rather strong topical anesthetic, which I got to try during my cleaning last Thursday, and it does help. The worst part of anything for me has always been the injections. From everything I’ve read about this new-fangled technology, I won’t feel much, and once I’m past that, I should be fine. I’ll be ok.

Oh, that’s right, did I mention? My dentist appointment was December first, the day of the New Moon.

I’ve been in therapy on and off since I was 14 years old. I had a lot of crappy experiences but I also had a lot of great ones, and I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress. There have been times over the last two years that I’ve felt my face flush with pride, thinking of how I used to be, and how I worked through so much to be where and who I am now. Every now and then I look around me and hug myself, and think “You did it!” I may still want for a lot of things, I have come a long way. The belief in myself that I’ve gained and the knowledge that I’m not alone or accursed in some way… I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

I feel as though this dental enterprise is the last in a series of difficult crossings I’ve had to make in my life, in my overall journey toward wholeness and wellness. There will be other ones in the future, but this is the last of the big ones that have been around since childhood. The fact that I got through the cleaning – and the gum scraping – last Thursday just exhilarated me. The staff made me feel good about myself, congratulating me for coming in at all, and reassuring me that things would be easier from here on out, now that I was committing to regular care. The pain from the cleaning was minimal, and the tears I shed were of fear, not pain or anger. Yes, I cried in the hygienist’s chair. And she told me I was doing great, and if crying made me feel better, I should go ahead and do it.

Emotional responses to dental work can come from a variety of sources. I think mine have more to do with a loss of trust during my childhood. I cry because I am mourning that loss of safety – or, more specifically, the loss of that feeling of safety that children have when they know they are being taken care of. I never really got that feeling back in any reliable sense, until very, very recently. And visiting the dentist reminds me of how that sense was destroyed. So this is my story, and this is my journey. And now, after I’ve taken care of myself in this very frightening but very important way, the story will end.

There is actually more going on than my cavities. I’ve been referred to a specialist for my receding gum problem. I have to see a periodontist, and he will most likely recommend surgery. They will take a small flap of skin from either my palate or a fleshy area of my gums, and graft it onto the receded part of my gumline. A skin graft for my receding gums!

I know, this sounds extreme. I should be panicked! But I’m not because… G has had this done. (Have I ever mentioned I'm living with a dentist's son?) I noticed the spot on his gum line once and asked him about it, and he told me the whole story. Apparently this isn’t the most uncommon procedure in the world. Not only that, G had his done eleven years ago – he pointed out that there have been advances since then, and it might be even easier for me than it was for him. He also made a point of telling me that it wasn’t really all that bad when he had it done.

Well, if he can do it, I can too.

So I have a long road ahead of me. Eight fillings and a likely gum graft lie in my future. G has offered to pay for my fillings, since I have no health insurance. I’m going to take him up on it. To be honest, I don’t have much choice. And he is so proud of me for doing this.

And I’m not really scared. Although I have to laugh about the fact that telling my Temp Agency and my School that I might need a few days off here and there to have this done is actually stressing me more than the thought of the procedure. Typical Virgo.

I couldn’t have picked a better time to have this appointment. I’m not even halfway over the bridge yet, but there’s no turning back at this point. Just knowing I’ll get through it and be fine and healthier and stronger for the effort is it’s own reward. Knowing that I’m in charge this time is the most triumphant part of all.

No comments: