Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Probably Think That Song Is About Me

A couple weeks ago I fell at work.  It was one of those "where are the cameras?!" moments that had me sailing down the hall, arms outstretched for what felt like 20 feet.

Am I surprised that I fell?  No.  Only that it's been so long since the last time.  Oh, and that I didn't have an audience.  The last time I fell on the job was about eight years ago.

At a mixer for several local chambers of commerce.  To be specific, I was in a business that provided non-emergency medical transport.

From the top of the stairs to exactly halfway down.

Why halfway?  Because this office was in a converted house circa mid-19th century.  The stairway was narrow and I'd "saved" myself by using the handrails on both sides.  Only my hands slipped and I went bumping (loudly) down the stairs on my knees with my arms hung over the rails.

Until I hit the brackets that held the handrails to the wall.  Halfway down.

My body jerked forward, but did not dislocate my shoulders.  I stood up and declared, "This is not an emergency and I do not need medical transport," before limping off into the sunset.

I was clumsy as a kid, too.  My mom says there were two reasons she put me in gymnastics.  One, because I watched the '76 Olympics and Nadia Comaneci without moving, totally rapt.  And two, because she figured I might learn how to fall more gracefully.  I'm going out on a limb and saying her reasoning was pretty sound.

Still, I bonked a lot.  Photos of my childhood show knees with huge bloody scabs and legs and arms full of bruises.  How many times did I have toes taped together until the breaks could heal?

Let's not even get into the fact that I have a scar on top of my foot from stepping on a piece of glass.  My mom said it was only possible because we're Polish.

I ran into things with my face, too.  Two black eyes at the same time?  Check!  Yep, pretty exciting times being me.

I was a tomboy.  (What?!)  I never really considered myself vain.  I mean, there was a time when I appreciated my looks (and now I can appreciate that they are fleeing and leaving crepe-y, wrinkled old lady skin in their stead).  I went three years without mascara, eye shadow and lipstick (the most makeup I ever wear) because I couldn't take anything for my allergies.  It wasn't the worst thing in the world.

Whatever.  I'm vain.  About my teeth.

If you knew me when I was a kid, you would not be able to guess such a transformation would take place.  In my home, oral hygiene was completely optional.  I had yellow sweater teeth* for a long time.

*Sweater teeth may alternately be known as bread teeth, depending on whether or not it looks like a person has just eaten bread.  Ever notice how bread clings to dirty teeth?

(Ever notice that any time people bring up oral hygiene or teeth in general, people close their mouths and run their tongues along their teeth?)

My sister and I, we of the mutant crowded teeth, had a longstanding wish fulfilled at age 14.  An orthodontist in a neighboring (bad) town (the sort of place you wouldn't like to visit) ran a coupon in the paper.  Fifty percent off!  And they took payments!  With a coupon from the neighbor's paper, we had a two for one deal.

One requirement before the appliances were installed (why are they called that?) was a trip to the dentist for X-rays.  Between my sister and I, more than one-third of our teeth had cavities.  I have a vague recollection of our parents asking us to choose between fillings and braces.  My sister had an extra set of eye teeth and my front teeth formed two-thirds of an isosceles triangle.  It was a no brainer for a couple of young teens.

A few months before my braces came off, a hygienist showed me how to brush my teeth.  There was something about those little circular motions that stuck with me and I've been doing it ever since.

The first time I went to the dentist was 12 or 13 years ago.  I had the same number of cavities as I'd had at age 14.  And little dark, hard spots on my teeth.  Oh, I was a beaut!

I smiled behind my hand.  It took one coworker pointing that out and the rest of them encouraging me to go to the dentist for me to finally put on my big girl panties and go.

The dentist scheduled me for four visits, deep cleaning and filling cavities in one quadrant at a time.

A weight I didn't fully understand I was carrying, lifted.  How often was it in the back of my mind?  I felt freer and instantly quit the habit of covering my smile.

I have not missed a dental appointment since then.  One time, I showed up a week early by mistake.  In fact, I go every five months because those pesky allergies often make me a mouth breather, which is a great way to get more nasty goo on my teeth.

Seven years ago Nancy mentioned that one of my front teeth was starting to turn colors.  My front teeth were in pretty bad shape anyway, with little chips out of the inside corners.  But now one was dead from all that bonking.  It was turning brown.  I had a root canal and a month of internal bleaching to get it back to a normal appearance.

The day after my home run-like slide down the hall at my office, I sat in the dentist's office steeling myself for the first step in getting a crown on that same tooth.  I guess the root canal had made it more brittle, and there was a fracture running from top to bottom.  Going to the dentist doesn't usually stress me out in the slightest, but I'd forgotten to find out what to expect until about four hours before my appointment.  No one I asked had any experience, or if they did, it was decades old and they didn't really remember.

The receptionist had to fill in for the regular hygienist for a few minutes.  She tried to reassure me that the end result would be worth it all.  But she was very clear that I would not like the process or the temporary crown.

I did not enjoy at all the numbing injection in the roof of my mouth, the sound and scent of my tooth being "shaved down, like a peg," or the fact that I realized my dentist has yellow and brown teeth of his own.  A lot of them.

Add to that the sensation and *gag* sight that caused me to say, "I'm kind of a gusher, huh Doc?"  (I tried to reassure myself later, asking the hygienist if it's normal to bleed that much.  After a long pause, she said, "Ummm, well, it's... not... uncommon."  Yeah, okay.)

I did take a peek at my peg of a tooth before the temporary crown was placed.  It was too depressing.  Imagine a front tooth about one third its normal width and length and the gums around it purple and blue.

Like I wasn't bruised enough already from my fall, right?

Doc figured out my tooth color and the hygienist went to work shaping the temporary crown.  When it was all done, I got to take a peek.

*sigh*

Sometimes the strangest things make me regret moving up here.  Like having a dentist whose teeth don't look well cared for.

Or the fact that my temporary tooth was way too narrow at the top (of course, flossing was a breeze, so there was that).

Or, what seemed like the worst part of all... it was yellow.  Why?

*ohm*

I felt more than a little down when I left the dental office that evening.  The receptionist had done her best to prepare me for what I'd see after the temporary crown was placed, but I was surprised anyway.

My face was numb, with blood spattered here and there.  My gums battered, my body and limbs equally bruised.  One tooth that looked like it belonged to Bubba the Lifelong Smoker.  It seemed to be placed a little askew, so the bottom right corner stuck out while the bottom left corner pushed in.  Could it get any worse?

Yes, it could.

As the numbness went away that evening, I noticed that my nose ached.  Really hurt.  Eventually I dared to look.  No, not in my 10X magnification mirror.  And what did I find?

A massive zit.  Which I foolishly attempted to pop.  Much like my mouth, it just bled.  A lot.  And left a scab that lasted three long days.

I soon realized that there were gaps on both sides of Bubba.  Big ones.  That caused me to blow bubbles when talking for more than a few seconds.

Okay, so the fact that I talked less over the past two weeks would not be deemed a problem by everyone.  I get that.

This evening I returned for part two.

Nervous?  Yes.  I believe I used the phrase "rising anxiety" to the dentist.

I turned on my MP3 player, set it to my birth playlist and tried to block everything out as he used a pair of pincers to remove Bubba.  It was uncomfortable and I was struggling not to imagine what would happen if he broke off my peg of a natural tooth.

In one of those moments that can best be described by most middle schooler's favorite word, I realized that I accidentally licked the dentist's gloved hand.  Awkward!

The next song that came up through my earbuds?


Apparently, using a phrase like "rising anxiety" and then bursting into uncontrollable giggles freaks out my dentist.

Bubba eventually came loose and my permanent crown was tried out.  The relief that swept over me at the pressure I felt when it squeezed into place bordered on ridiculous.  The ginormous gaps were gone.  The corners that had irritated my lip and tongue for two weeks?  Gone.  The unnatural thickness of Bubba?  Disappeared.

Were we done?  We were not.

I knew I was getting a filling on the other front tooth, but I hadn't heard about a cavity there. Normally I ask questions, but I had been silenced by fear and bubbles.  Well that other tooth was pretty banged up from years of abuse, too.  So the "filling" was really more of a filling in where the little chips had fallen out over the years.

I have two whole teeth.

That are reasonable tooth colors.

Bubble blowing will again require a wand.

I told my dentist I might sprout a happy tear.  He was glad to know in advance it would be a happy one.

One odd thing I learned tonight?  The process of oral coronation causes nasal acne.  That's right, I have a pimple so massive on the side of my nose that it hurts to flare my nostrils.  (I do it to entertain the girls.  It's a skill, I swear.)

Thank goodness I'm done.

Somebody, play my song!

3 comments:

Hank Greer said...

(Ever notice that any time people bring up oral hygiene or teeth in general, people close their mouths and run their tongues along their teeth?)

Dang it! You got me.

Enjoy smiling.

Rue said...

What an ordeal! Sorry you had to go through all this, but you make getting dental work done sound like such an adventure--very fun to read.

(I am also guilty of running my tongue over my teeth while reading this post)

crazedinthekitchen.com said...

I almost couldn't finish reading this, it gave me so much anxiety for you! I have several recurring nightmares--one of them is having a bunch of my teeth fall out. I'm glad you're done with all the dental work. Doesn't sound like fun at all.

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