I bet that seems like the craziest thing to you.
Whoever “you” is, that might be reading this.
“Ummmm, it’s just a dentist appointment, yo, what’s the big deal?”
Weeeeell, let me tell you a story.
A story about loss. pain. grief. loneliness. depression.
Just to name a few.
In January 2007 my teeth started breaking/chipping/cracking…falling out, for all intent and purpose. To this day I don’t know why. It’s been suggested that it could be diet, genetics, nutrient deficiency, some combo of the above, or something I’ve never heard of. What I do know is that it is not, despite one dentist’s awful assumption, is poor dental hygene. (He asked me, point blank, “Do you even brush your teeth?” I have NEVER felt more mortified, infuriated, hopeless.) I left that place with an appointment elsewhere for a root canal and a follow up for a crown. I’ll let you guess which of those two things happened.
Despite my declining oral health and increasing pain/difficulty eating I forged on without seeing another dentist until October 2010. Three years. All because of one shitty person’s hurtful words to me. If I could remember his name I’d put him on blast everywhere; alas, I have forgotten. The only reason I saw another dentist was INTENSE pain, the worst I’ve felt (and that’s saying something.) I saw Dr. Kelly Mack, who’s office, staff, and demeanor I adored. His “solution” to my problems, however, didn’t work for me. Mostly because I can’t afford them. I’ll get to that, though. What he DID solve for me was the immediate problem, the pain. He sent me to a surgeon the next day and I had seven teeth extracted. Three wisdom (for some weird reason I don’t have a fourth), two molars, one canine and one lateral incisor. I quit smoking that day, too, on top of everything…can you believe it?! I still can’t and it’s been just shy of four months. I didn’t want to risk a dry socket so I just…stopped; never lit up again, post appointment. I am convinced that makes me a bad ass. Anyway, I digress.
I went back to see Dr. Mack three weeks after the surgery and he wrote up a quote of sorts, for future treatment. He wanted to fill in all the holes and cracks and breaks in my teeth and I assume crown them. I say assume because the talks never got that far. The price of filling one quarter of my mouth (read 5-6 teeth) was four thousand dollars. Needless to say I cried all the way home knowing that would never be possible. There seems to be no logical reason to spend $12,000 on fillings alone. Especially when I know from experience that my teeth just break around the fillings. My husband agrees; it’s just too much to pay…and that’s not even including the office visits, the prescriptions, the check-ups every three months. Needless to say I started shopping for other options immediately. At that time I’d only been without “my two front teeth” for 3 weeks, but it was already taking a toll on my self-esteem and my activity in…life.
I managed to make an appointment with my Dad’s dentist the next day to talk about the only alternative to the fill-and-crown plan; full dentures. Just typing the words made me break into tears just now. In fact I’m going to take a break to cry this out. I can’t believe I am writing this horror story right now.
Ok, I’m back. Not better, but back. Dr. Stoddard quoted me: four thousand dollars. Let’s look at the math here: the price for filling 5-6 teeth at one office = pulling my existing teeth, a full set of dentures, and all the follow up appointments at another. I have NO idea how that works, but I made up my mind that day—I would be getting full dentures before my 27th birthday. The moment I closed his office door behind me I started the mourning process, only I didn’t realize that’s what it was until the other day. From the moment I realized I would be giving up my real teeth I started mourning the loss of not only the teeth but what they represented. I would never have a normal smile. Pretty? I gave that up ages ago. All I’ve ever really wanted was a healthy smile, and it seems I can’t even have that. I have to have dentures. At 26. It’s taken me four months to get through all the stages of grief, but I think I’m at the part where I’m ready to move forward.
- I miss SO FUCKING MUCH.
- I MISS EATING WHAT I WANT TO EAT. I miss crunchy things. A LOT. And cake. OMFG cake. All I ever wanted in life was to be a chef, but the best/most important part of cooking is TASTING! I dream of going to culinary school once I get this teeth thing sorted…but that’s a whooooole other post.
- I miss smiling and laughing. My humor is a big part of me and while I haven’t been hiding it, being able to truly express it again is something I long for, very vividly.
- I miss meeting new people, volunteering, going shopping, hanging out with my Mom/BFF. Smiling at strangers on the street, walking around downtown, feeling the sunshine and the wind on my face, taking photos of whatever I fancy and pretending it’s “photography.”
- Most of all, I MISS BEING ME. It took me a long time to love my short, stubby little body…it’s not fair to go back to hating myself because of ONE thing I KNOW I can change.
Also, since getting those seven teeth pulled I have become a hermit. I’ve cut myself off from my family, almost completely. I HATE that. I miss them desperately. I do not go out; I try to stay home as much as possible, and I succeed most days in never leaving my front yard. I have no friends anymore. (Sorry, acquaintances via the Internet don’t count. A friend is someone you see, someone you confide in, someone you relate to and who relates to you.) I let them all slip away because I was too insecure to have anyone see me “like this.” I have managed to continue entertaining my husband’s friends from work when he decides he wants to throw a bash, but I try very hard to cover my mouth when speaking/laughing/eating. It’s difficult. Being drunk helps. I try to paint my face and fix my hair and dress half decent to counteract my “hillbilly grin” but who knows if it really works.
All of these things led me to spiral into a deep depression that I just managed to drag myself out of, thanks only to my amazing husband. It lasted the past two weeks; maybe longer…I’m not sure…I don’t really remember much other than the longing for death, and the thinking of ways to end it, then realizing I’m too stupid to pull it off and all I’d end up with is half a face, an assload of medical bills, a mess to clean up, and a stigma. Yeah…I was in a dark fucking place, man.
But today here I am. Making a presumably dumb but very effective graphic to motivate myself to be the change I wish to see in my life. What I want won’t just come to me, I have to go make it happen.
This week I managed to break yet another tooth. It happens more often than you’d think. Minimum once a week, I’d say. Can you imagine? Oh please, please don’t try, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Not even Voldemort. Anywho, that led me to look up a place I think I remember my sister mentioning. I’m almost certain it was her, but at the time we talked about it I was still in the denial phase and was not at all ready to hear her suggestion. It’s called Affordable Dentures, and despite its being a 30 minute commute, it’s by far the most…well, affordable! For $4,500 I can get a full set of the highest quality, most custom dentures available, implants to secure the lower denture (which is the thing that terrifies me most, because of the stories I’ve heard), follow up appointments/resizing, the extractions, AND immediate temporary dentures the day I have my remaining teeth pulled—no more hole-y smile for me! The drive will suck, as I get pretty major motion sickness, but it seems like the answer I’ve been looking for this entire time. Looking for, but wasn’t ready to see, until now.
So, that’s why I made the above graphic.
I’m tried of waiting. I have the Care Credit card to charge this awful debt to. I have a husband who’s willing to drive me to and from allll the appointments, despite it most likely causing shit for him at work. I have the pain threshold to make it through the healing process, and I have the will the learn to talk and eat and make out with false teeth. If I can learn pre-calculus I can relearn the basics of using my mouth.
Today is the day.
No more fear, no more sorrow.
From here on out, I’m taking my life back again. (I’m preeeetty sure will be easier this time.)
I just have to take the first step. Once I do, there’s no going back.
Eyes closed, arms open wide, heart full—TIME TO LEAP.
This has been the second hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. THANK YOU to anyone who made it through the wall of text. This was very therapeutic for me.
*edit, one and one-half years later* I wish I had not used “balls” in that^ context. Strength, courage, heart, hope, bravery…there are so many words I could/should have chosen.