Saturday, July 30, 2011

Take that, list

So I did it. I finally got that root canal. Most importantly, I can now finally cross another thing off of my list. Doesn't it feel so good to cross something off a list? Say it with me now. So good.

As I mentioned earlier this week, root canals are life list material for me. I've spent so much of my life feeling terrible about how bad my teeth are, as though I'd done something wrong to have such horrible teeth. I didn't like how they looked (I have small teeth), and most importantly, I didn't like how my dentist looked at me when he told me that I had another cavity. It didn't matter how much I brushed my teeth, or how often I visited the dentist, I always had cavities. When I sit down for a minute and put my reality hat on, I realize that having cavities doesn't make me a bad person. But I haven't always felt that way. As a child I used to cry after visiting the dentist, filled with shame that I had to get more fillings.

Very little has changed as I've grown-up, except that my mum isn't the one scheduling my appointments anymore, which means I can put them off as long as possible. Why would I willingly go sit in the torture Chair of Shame? You say my teeth will only get worse and that it will cause me more pain and cost me more money? Speaking of money, growing into adulthood with very irregular dental insurance added a whole new dimension of shame I felt at the dentist. No longer was it enough to embarrass myself with bad teeth, but now I needed to go two thousand dollars into debt to do it! Nonsense, I say. I will respectfully decline the opportunity to feel shamed in a dentist chair yet again. And that nagging pain? It will be fine. Pass the Tylenol.

But eventually I realize that I'm being ridiculous, I scrape up my courage, and I get the work done. I am always glad when I do, and I always wonder why it took me so long. I have been warned about this root canal for about four years. Four years of dread, four years of intermittent pain, one week of excruciating pain, and I finally did it. I feel a tiny bit more grown-up now, in the good way.

By the way, it didn't hurt too much at all.


  1. I can *so* identify Danielle. I have cavities in nearly every one of my molars and premolars, and I had them all before I was 12. I felt so much guilt about it. I remember one time when I was about 10 or 11 and I was supposed to go to the dentist for a filling, and I was so upset about it I called the dentist's office and lied to the receptionist and cancelled my appointment.

    My own son started to get all kinds of cavities (at the age of !3!), and after his first major dental restorative (which involved general anaesthesia, one tooth extracted, two crowns, and two root canals...and there was more work to be done but they couldn't do any more that day!) the pediatric dentist said to me "he's got deep pits in his teeth and high would have been pretty much impossible for you to be able to clean those at all." And I realized that I must have had the exact same problem myself. Liam has had work done on almost every single one of his baby teeth. Now that his adult teeth are coming in, we're having sealants put on all of the molars as soon as they erupt through the gums.

    Because I had so many fillings done within a 3 year span as a kid, they all started to break down around the same time, in my early 30s. I was doing my post-doc in LA at the time, and we had no money, and no dental coverage. I went to a dentist there who said I had about $2000 of work that needed to be done; I literally broke down sobbing in his chair. Happily, 2 months later I got a real job with real dental coverage, and over my first year in Sudbury I had about 12 fillings replaced, and 4 root canals. I got a crown last year as well.

    I'm *so* glad you finally got that root canal. Hopefully you won't put off the next one, and you can spare yourself the toothache!

  2. M. Bloom, thanks! I was excited, too!

    Stacey, that sounds horrible. The shame was horrible as a child, and still feels overwhelming sometimes. When I was around 12 my dentist mentioned that I probably had extra soft teeth because of a virus I had when I was younger. It was the first time he suggested anything else might be to blame besides my laziness in dental hygiene. I admit that I'm worried for my girls, who I pray will have Matt's strong, mostly cavity-free teeth.

    How is your son with all of this? Is it just matter of fact? Does he dread the dentist?

    Thanks for the good thoughts!

  3. Oh! Maybe a virus is responsible for Liam's teeth too! I mean, the shape of them he inherited from me, but he had such awful problems so early, much much earlier than me. I will have to investigate that!!

    He hates the dentist, of course. We have to cajole and bribe him, and once we actually get him in the chair he tries to bargain with the dentist about what tools she can use and how long she can do things. He hates the suction the most, which seems so irrational to me, but perhaps it's the sound it makes. I'm dreading next year, when he's going to need to start some major orthodontic work for his "Class III Malocclusion" (also known as a severe underbite). Pray for us. :)

  4. Well, dental hygiene eliminates cavities. But sometimes things just don't go the way we want them to, dear. Good to hear you survived the dreaded root canal, hehe. Just continue your usual dental routine and everything will be okay.

    Bianca Jackson

  5. Thanks, Bianca. And sometimes dental hygiene can only do so much! I brush, floss, and use mouthwash daily. I can imagine what this poor mouth would be like if I didn't!