Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Dental Makeover: Step 1

I had a mouthful of metal.

Until this morning, that is. As a child I had every one of my molars pumped full of metal. The tops of the molars were coated in silver, the sides of my molars were dotted with metal. If I laughed heartily (and I usually do) you'd get an eyeful of the dark gray landscape that was my mouth. I think every possible surface had been pillaged and draped in silver.

Personally, I think my childhood dentist was drill happy.

This morning all of those gray hunks were drilled out of my head. I believe all of them were at least 30 years old.

Unlike those childhood experiences of groaning and thrashing in the dentist's chair while he softly murmured, "Just a few more minutes," this morning's dental spelunking was not painful in the least.

My new, wonderful dentist pumped me full of so much Novocaine I never felt a thing. And he administered the Novocaine in such a way that I wasn't digging my nails into the arms of the chair. Unlike thirty years ago, they now have this nifty topical anesthetic they can put on your gums before they prick it with the needle.

So I didn't move.

I didn't flinch.

I didn't groan or moan or even clench my fingers ever-so-delicately into the armrest.

"That was amazing!" my dentist remarked. "It's very difficult for people not to flinch while they're getting Novocaine."

Which gave me pause. Was my new dentist amazing, was he kissing my ass, or have I simply acquired the most amazing capacity for pain tolerance ever? I think it might be a little bit of all of the above.

I think the combination of Buddhist practice and a shit ton of therapy have enabled me to tolerate pain. Both psychic pain and physical pain. The old me would have been ratcheting up the dental appointment long before it began.

As my husband often says, "A coward dies a million deaths, a hero dies but one." I used to die a million deaths a thousand times a day. I'd die in anticipation of events. I'd freak myself out over the prospect of getting a Novocaine shot and get myself all worked up before I even got in the chair. I'd break out into hives the night before a surgery.

But now I bring into play the Buddhist practice of redirecting my mind. If I find my mind wondering to thoughts of "HOLY SHIT HE'S GOING TO JAB MY GUMS MULTIPLE TIMES WITH A BIG MEDIEVAL NEEDLE" I redirect.

I've been practicing redirection for so long that it's nearly instantaneous. It's probably more along the lines of, "HOLY SHI..." and then I redirect to, "Hm. I wonder what we should have for dinner?"

And then, "HOLY..." and then redirect to, "I can't wait 'til the kids go to bed so I can lay like a zombie on the couch and watch The Shawshank Redemption for the 112th time."

And finally, "HO..." redirect to "God I love this movie."

This is how I deal with fears and anxieties about physical pain, medical visits, social engagements, public speaking, making phone calls to strangers, etc.

But what of my teeth? I know you're wondering about my new teeth.

Phase 1? It almost looks like Phase Done to these eyes. I can't believe my own teeth.

I'm ready to throw open my mouth and laugh open-throated with abandon. If you hear me braying like a mule you'll know why. It's because I've got a mouth full of virgin pearly-whites. They are as pure as the driven snow. They are babies' teeth. They are the teeth of a lady who never got her teeth stuck on a Bit O'Honey.

I keep going to the ladies room to open my mouth in the mirror. I stare at all that white surface. It's like all my sins have been erased.

It's dental absolution.

And it's only Step 1, baby.


  1. "I'd break out into hives the night before a surgery."

    I think that's a familial trait.

    Happy for your virgin mouth.

  2. It's as though my mouth has been touched for the very first time.

  3. That is so awesome! What I wouldn't give for unlimted dental insurance, I have the worst teeth ever. I think it's a combo of genetics, mouth breathing when I sleep, and metal for 9 years. *sigh*

  4. I'm still scared of the dentist. I'd probably redirect - redirect my ass right out of the chair and out the building.

  5. i still clench - it's a gut reaction to the sight of the needle even though i can't feel it.

  6. My molars hurt, now.


    I'm excited for your and your sexy, sexy teeth. Bring on Phase 2!

  7. I've got one of those grey bitches way in the back. I had two but part of one fell out so they replaced it with a porcelain one. You lucky insured thing!
    Now Jesus can enjoy your new mouth. Ahhhh ;)

  8. Now the hubby can say those are the whitest teeth I ever came across...

    sorry, i am in the gutter.

  9. Congrats on the pearly whites.

    During a conversation with my hygenist during my last visit I came to the realization that many of my fillings were over 30 years old too. I think a couple of them might need replacing.

    Glad @Nice Peace of Buddhy said that, awesome trip to the gutter, and maybe a pearl necklace to go with the pearly whites...

  10. Amelia: If I'd had unlimited dental insurance I would have had this years ago. But that does not mean I currently have unlimited dental. Oh well. Some people drive nice cars, other people pay for nice smiles.


    Wow: Okay, that was funny.


    Char: I keep my eyes closed so I never see the needle. Needles freak me out.

    See Kate Run:


    Is now my favorite blog comment.

    Sweet Spots: I doubt insurance will cover this. Or will cover much. *Shrugs* Just call me a lucky employed thing.

    Eva: It's very exciting.

    Nice Peace of Buddha: *Sigh*

    *Shakes head*

    *Looks disapproving*

    My husband will be highly amused by your comment. So you just got points with him.

    Cary: I think this means we're old.

    And don't make me shake my head disapprovingly at you.


  11. i redirect, too! and here i thought that when i was doing so, i was only avoiding reality and possibly exhibiting signs of a serious yet unidentified mental illness.

    thank you, wonderful mandy, for validating my weirdness.


    plus congrats on the teeth. i have always refused to have anything but resin fillings, because i am a self-conscious open-mouthed laugher as well.

  12. I am so stinking jealous of your born again teeth I can barely contain myself.

    All we need is a few good pharmaceutical jingles, and the money truck will pull up to our house, dump a load, and then, maybe I'll go get my mouth redone.

    Good for you! Go to the mirror, and smile one just for Susan in the Boonies.

  13. When you have two kids, a husband, a job, and a mouth full of Novocaine, anything can be a relaxing moment of reflection. I, for one, can't believe how painless leg waxing has become. Just to have some sacred alone time in any capacity is so relaxing now that I can almost fall asleep no matter how many hundreds of thick Italian leg hairs are being pulled from the root simultaneously. And the I'm-gorgeous-now payoff? Just the cherry on top.

    Oh, yes, and amen to you (you got me going with your lovely white absolution poetry). Sounds awesome and beautiful!


  14. Zanna: It's not weird, it's healthy. Why is fixating on something you cannot change and that makes you feel bad a good thing? It's not.

    Susan in the Boonies: Born again mouth! I love it!

    *Throws head back, laughs loudly*

    Christina's World: Ha. That's a good point. I might have enjoyed myself if I couldn't hear the whine of the drill.


  15. Wow. That was weird. Mistakenly clicked on the comments for another post and was so confused. Why would talking about your mouth make people want to visit Detroit?

    And thank you, Madonna is now singing in my head. Which leads to a question: where you ever able to tune into radio stations with all that metal in your mouth?
    Just another random thought brought you to by your truly.

  16. I too think my childhood dentist filled "non-existent" cavities. Hell, we would have no way to refute his claim that, in spite that our water was fluoridated and I brushed my teeth like I was polishing brass, I ALWAYS had cavities that needed filling. Interesting my dentist drove a shiny Jaguar.

    But then that was an era when my mom and all her friends were getting hysterectomies for whatever ailed them. The golden age of medicine and dentistry is now gone, fortunately.

  17. I am soooo very jealous of Step 1 and can't wait to see the rest of the steps. I still have 4 grey fillings having already replaced 4 or 6 with resin. I also need 3 front teeth capped to replace veneers that have discolored over time and consequently make my smile a beige rainbow, not pretty. Thanks for the tip on redirection. I usually just leave my scratch marks in the arm rest even though nothing compares with having a root canal at 7 with no anestethic (sp?) Congrats on this first step and best of luck with the rest.

  18. Me too ... to everything you described.
    Adding to that an accident when I was 19 requiring me to have dental surgery , walking around with lips out to here when it wasn't fashionable and doctors who studied in dark labs in Germany..
    I am definitely going to try re-directing. It sounds like something I can do.
    Congratulations on the pearly whites .. I will listen for the braying sounds :)

  19. Hahaha dental absolution. Brilliant! Why do I think you're going to try to seduce your husband later by showing him your new white crowns?

  20. I think a woman who has recently given birth has a higher pain threshold. Face it, a few shots in the gum is pleasant compared to squeezing a small human into the world. If you ever need Novocaine again, you might be surprised at how painful that shot really is.

  21. Well done. :-)

    I recently received my first crown. Ahh. Novocaine, THE GAS (always ask for the gas) and my iPod?! Holy Hannah, in 10 minutes you're thinking 'this is the greatest party ever!'


  22. I noticed your tag "if you're into some freaky dental fetish please don't read my blog". First off I thought the concept of tag was a short word or phrase to categorize with.
    So are teeth a main blog topic here or is the dental related stuff just due to recent appointments? Ok, I'm just commenting out loud. You must have good dental insurance. Does your Dentist read your blog?

  23. I didn't even know that was possible! Awesomeness... Mom always made sure we had the best dentists growing up because she's petrified of them.

  24. The Mad Woman: No, no radio stations. That would have been a plus.

    Robert the Skeptic: Don't forget Mother's Little Helper: Valium. They could have shared some of it with us before we went to the dentist for all the unnecessary procedures.

    Whatsupwiththat: I have a discolored crown that needs replacing as well, but that's step 4, I believe. I'll keep you posted.

    aBroad: An accident started much of my dental work as well. One clumsy maneuver as a kid and a life of dental surgeries. *Sigh*

    MelHeth: I did show him as soon as I got home!

    It's Pam: I think having children has shifted my pain threshold. And I have to get more Novacaine next month, so we'll put your theory to the test again.

    Pearl: I didn't get the gas. I have had it in the past and did enjoy it. Though once I remember feeling as though the Novacaine needle had gone through my jaw and was coming out the other side.

    Lisleman: My purpose for tags is to amuse myself. So you were looking for a dental fetish blog?

    Krissy: Every thing is possible, if only you believe, Krissy.

  25. My mom had 19 cavities by the time she was 3. Three! So, her mouth was probably full of silver. Ha.

    I'm your newest follower.

  26. I have GOT to turn my son into a Buddhist-- it takes the whole staff at the doctor's office to hold him down for a shot. Yeah, probably not the best thing to base one's entire spiritual beliefs on, but still...

  27. Dental technology is getting better, and so are their drugs. I had a root canal in 2010 and never felt a moment of pain.

  28. Oh, Novocaine is an anesthetic that was created to be used in minor surgeries in dentistry. It's really unusual for dentists to encounter patients that don't flinch while getting it! How were you able to handle the pain, Mandy? Your dentist must've been really great! Both of you are great, of course.

    Ed Mcgoldrick

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