Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Only Thing to Fear is Fear Itself

I knew I should not be afraid. I honestly knew better. But the one and only and last time I had a tooth pulled, there were four of them, there was anesthetic involved and when I woke up there was bruising, swelling and at least one black eye. I vaguely remember being told the roots were hard to remove, thus the bruising. All I knew for sure is that I was grateful I had been asleep throughout the ordeal that had me looking like I was the loser of a barroom brawl. So yes, I admit it. I was a little fearful of the idea of getting a tooth pulled while I was fully conscious and aware of everything going on around me.

I shouldn't have been.

My tooth saga has come to an end. The mysterious tooth ache for no visible reason, the temporary filling that actually did NOT fall out (it was the filling beside it), the cracked tooth, the specialist appointment and all the drama and concern about needing a bridge or implant. It was as simple as pulling a tooth. The end (I know right now my son would be nodding his head and telling me "That's what I would have done from the start").

May I also add that the dental profession has come a very, very long way since those original fillings were done. I remember the scariest dentist of my life waving the big needle that was going to freeze up my mouth right in front of my eyes. I think he even had a mean cackle like Frankenstein's doctor. It was scary stuff in those days. So scary that the one and only time Dad took me to the dentist (I have NO idea why he took me to a dentist because that was not the role he played in our family), he came home and told Mom to change dentists. And we did.

Our next dentist had a reputation of being "the painless dentist". I think I even remember there being a write up about him with that exact description. He was good. I was never afraid of dentists again. The dental hygienists? Perhaps. They always had a lecture at the end of my cleanings which made me tremble in the chair. But the dentist? He was good.

I have long since gotten over my fear of dentists, the freezing procedure became easier with each passing visit. Yesterday, even the part that he warned me was going to be uncomfortable was nothing awful. Any time I thought of something that hurt just a little more than I was comfortable with, I thought of my mom and sister, who have each recently broke a wrist (what a team!). This minor, quick little fleeting bit of discomfort was NOTHING compared to what they went through.

I did ask what to expect. I told my dentist the last time I had a tooth (teeth) pulled, I was unconscious and woke with black eyes (yes, I exaggerated a little bit). He said there would be a pulling sensation, I would hear some grinding kind of noise and I forget the rest.

So I took a deep breath (maybe three) and settled in, preparing for the ordeal ahead. There was that pulling sensation. There was a noise in my head I didn't love (if only the freezing could mute the sounds of dentistry, without deafening the world around me, it would be perfect). I thought of my mom and my sister and the pain they have gone through with their broken wrists. I braced myself for what was yet to come. And that was it. He was done. It was THAT easy!

I could have taken my tooth home to put under my pillow to see what the Tooth Fairy would bring for me but I declined. Instead she showed me the cracks on both sides of my tooth and as she placed her instrument along the crack line so I could see, my tooth fell into two pieces. It was "that" close to falling apart in my mouth. I was glad to be rid of it.

The Tooth Fairy actually did make her appearance in the dentist's office. I did express my frustration over having to pay $170 our of my pocket (my insurance covered $25) for a specialist appointment which I highly questioned and felt was unnecessary. So my dentist asked me how much my insurance covered and that is all he charged me. I walked out of the office without my tooth but I saved the cost of that final act of dentistry. The Tooth Fairy is alive and well!

And so am I. There was little to no pain, I didn't bleed to death, there was next to no discomfort and the only fear I had was reading the after-care instructions. I had to limit my liquid intake for 12 hours, eat only soft foods and not drink from a straw until my healing is well underway.

There I go again. I made a big deal in my head over nothing. I have been told this before and will probably be told again, "You should write fiction because you sure know how to make up a story!"

Well, Glennon and Brené (my two best friends who don't know me - Glennon Doyle Melton and Brené Brown, for those of you who can't read my mind) tell me "The brain is wired for story". When we don't know all the details, how everything works and how it is going to work out, we create our own story. The power lies in creating our own endings and becoming more of a participant in the act of participating in the act of our own story (and its ending).

Well, I'm not exactly sure if that is what they said or not but it is something along that line. I took what I knew (my last tooth pulling experience), added two good doses of fear (I don't know this dentist nor his reputation so I highly questioned why he referred me to a specialist so I created my own little story, which I now believe to be truly false. I take it all back), add this "age factor" into the mix (I am starting to feel like I'm hitting the age where we don't "fix" things any more - we either accept it as our reality, or in the case of teeth we "extract" them and just do without) and I was a little afraid.

All's well that ends well. I have a mouth full of pretty healthy teeth now. I believe this was the only molar that didn't have a crown on it, so I expect my tooth stories to be non-existent from this point onward. Or at least until my crowns need to be replaced.

I'm just grateful my tooth story had a happy ending. I believe in the Tooth Fairy once again.

The end.

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