Let’s take a little trip down memory lane. The memories aren’t all sunshine & rainbows, because we’re going to be looking closely at my dental journey. Sounds boring, right?
Buckle your seatbelt. It’s a bumpy ride.
1985: I was born. I didn’t have any teeth.
1991-ish: Do you remember buying shoes at Caldor and they were always attached with a piece of plastic? I was about 6 years old when I realized losing a tooth meant money from the tooth fairy (cha-ching!) so I would hide behind furniture and use that plastic piece to pull my teeth out. I think I “lost” 4 in one week. Had I known that at age 34 I would be getting my permanent teeth pulled, I probably would have reconsidered. And, I apparently had not yet learned about entrepreneurship and that a lemonade stand at my parents annual tag sale would have been more lucrative.
This was me, in 2nd grade. Mrs. Goulding’s class. It was Halloween ( in case that wasn’t obvious) and that was not a wig, nor my attempt at witchy looking hair. That was just my hair. And my teeth pre-braces.
A year later… got the hair under control, sort of. And, all of my baby teeth are gone (because I yanked them all out).
1996: There wasn’t a question of if; it was when. The time was now. I was 10 years old and I got my braces. Funny that I used to want braces so badly that I would take bubble gum and put it across my teeth and stick earring backs to it. Yes, really. That’s what 8 year olds did before youtube & iPads.
On the left: Me with braces in 1996.
On the right: Lord Farquaad from Shrek.
Me with my “brace face”… smiling big because I probably just had a dance party in my room, rockin’ out to “100% Pure Love” by Crystal Waters that I recorded from the radio on a cassette tape.
2000: After 4 years, I finally get my braces off. I smiled all the time; I felt pretty & confident for the first time in my life.
2004: I was chewing on a pencil while studying for an exam at Wagner College on Staten Island, and my back left molar breaks in half. I immediately drive 3 hours home to see my dentist. I get a root canal and a crown.
2007: I was smiling and dancing at my Mom’s zumba studio in Holyoke, when I looked in the mirror and noticed my bottom tooth was black. I thought I was hallucinating. I looked like a pirate. Turns out, a blood vessel popped underneath my tooth and the blood turned my tooth black. I had a root canal on that tooth and had it internally bleached 3 times.
2008: I didn’t wear my retainer as often as I should have (important lesson learned for anyone getting braces off!) So, my teeth shifted… and I got invisalign for 2 years.
2018: My back molar (the one that cracked and had a crown) had to get extracted due to an infection, and I had to get a flipper while the bone healed. If you didn’t know, a flipper is essentially a fake tooth that clips in. I called it my Glade plug-in. After 3 months with a missing tooth, I got a mini dental implant and a permanent tooth was put in.
2019: I feel like I have a loose tooth, so I get it checked out (no, I didn’t yank it out because the tooth fairy goes MIA when you turn 18). Turns out, I have another bone infection above the tooth next to my implant. I see an endodontist to have an apicoectomy (gum surgery) and have the infection cleaned up.
June 2020: The infection comes back. I have to get the tooth extracted, get a bone graft due to significant bone loss, get another flipper (glade plug-in 2.0), wait 3 months and get another implant. In the meantime, I order a tooth replacement kit on Etsy for $20 because my flipper didn’t fit great. Worked like a charm. Who knew?
That’s the black hole of bone loss caused from years of orthodontic work, tooth movement & infection.
Today: Thursday, October 29th, 2020, I went to the periodontist to get my implant put in. I assumed this meant that I would also be getting rid of the flipper and would be getting my permanent tooth installed. Big day!!
Turns out, the bone graft didn’t take. I had to get more artificial bone put in around the screw that was implanted in hopes that it will heal around the implant. And, I have to wait and wear the flipper for another 3 months.
So, I cried in the chair. I cried because I am tired of clipping this tooth in everyday, after already having been through this once before. I’m tired of not smiling big out of fear that people will wonder “what the heck is that pink stuff” stuck above my tooth. I hated the sound of the drill, vibrating into my bone. In 34 years, I’ve seen a dentist, an orthodontist, an endodontist, a periodontist… how many dontists are there?
I hated that I have gone through so much with my damn teeth. I was angry and feeling sorry for myself. Until I checked myself up, gave myself a pep talk about perspective and was reminded of this analogy:
You are standing in a field, all alone. It’s cold. It’s raining. You are soaking wet. In the distance you see a tornado coming at you. What do you do? You run. You don’t even care that it’s raining, or you are cold, or that you are alone. You have bigger problems.
Now, take away the tornado. You are alone, it’s cold, it’s raining and you are soaking wet. You cry because you wish it would stop raining. That’s your biggest problem.
Now, take away the rain. You are alone, it’s cold. You cry because you are cold. That’s your biggest problem.
Now, take away the cold. You are alone. You cry because you are alone. That’s your biggest problem. However, none of these other problems even phased you when you had a tornado coming your direction. Our problems seem so big if we neglect to be grateful for what we do have.
If I had some of the problems that so many people are unfortunately living: job loss, loss of a loved one, a terrifying diagnosis, house fire… this tooth would be no big deal. Of course, we are all allowed to feel sadness, despair, frustration and feel sorry for ourselves. We are human. But as I came home to my 2 kids, safe and healthy, my warm home, a comfy couch, a cozy blanket and friends and family offering to help me out, I realized I can live another 3 months with this damn plug-in tooth, because I have so many blessings that far outweigh the negative. And it’s very ironic… a compliment that I often get is “you have really nice teeth.” If you ONLY knew. And now you do. And guess what? Teeth or no teeth, I will never stop smiling, because I get to live another day above ground. And because I no longer look like Lord Farquaad.