Watching the flurries decorate the sky, I sit by my window, drinking my sparkling water out of a straw, and contemplate if I want to share my struggles with dental work this past year. It was just about a year and a half ago that I started on this journey. Dental work wasn’t my highest priority for a long time. With student loans, credit card debt, and living expenses, worrying about my teeth wasn’t at the top of the list. I’ve never been one to be especially worried about my looks, considering that my entire life I’d been overweight and broke, I’d always thought that my teeth weren’t as important as doing things in the world that made a difference. I’d always been able to rationalize why I don’t have the time or money to make it a priority, there are people in this world with bigger problems.
Growing up, I wasn’t blessed with great teeth and I had braces and retainers throughout junior high and senior high school. Suffice to say I didn’t keep in the retainer that had a “fake” tooth that was expected to be replaced with an implant. I am not sure why my mother sent me off to art school with the retainer and no clear plan for the implant. Two decades later I find myself sitting at the dentist’s office and learning that if I don’t get a solution to my dental issues I will lose my teeth.
I take the responsibility as I know self-care wasn’t a habit for me most of my life and even today it is hard to make myself get out of bed before falling asleep to brush my teeth. But now I know it matters.
After deep cleaning and being diligent about improving my dental care, I learned about the options in front of me and made the choice to invest in bridges and crowns. The actual appointment, scheduled in June, lasted four hours. The dentist told me I should take Xanax (to combat anxiety durring the procedure) but I would have to rely on someone to drive me and it would be impossible to go to work afterward. Not wanting to use PTO time for the dental work and trying to steer clear of any kind of medication, I opted for trying something myself, a combination of using essential oils with meditation.
“After only a few days of meditation training—teaching people to better focus their attention, concentrating less on the discomfort and more on a soothing stimulus—subjects reported a 57% reduction in the “unpleasantness” of their pain. Such improvements are roughly equivalent to the benefits of morphine.”
As a daily meditator, (I use the 10% Happier App) I’d been reading up on how meditation can help with pain management. This article points out that meditation can be a powerful remedy for pain. I’d been trying this with my constant lower back pain and it has seemed to help. I do deep breathing while in significant pain and notice the pain and try to release the tension in my body that I sense as a result of the pain. But it worked. I felt much more relaxed when doing this deep breathing while breathing the essential oils to help me relax. It’s also the longest I’ve ever meditated.
The initial dental appointment involved shaving down my top center teeth, removing my two center bottom teeth (which were too weak to remain) and placing the temporary bridge over the top of the remaining teeth. During the dental appointments, when receiving the novocaine to numb my mouth, I experienced a severe panic attack each time. (This had to be done a total of three times). I first used essential oils and then took deep breaths with the oils. It would take me about 15 minutes to calm down to a relaxed state. The dentist would take breaks between the stages of the procedure and help other patients. That gave me the ability to do my deep breathing and calm down. I cried a bunch and he even had mentioned the medication again, but I was diligent about wanting to do this. All I kept thinking was that “If I experience pain, that means I’m alive, and that’s a good thing, to remind myself that I’m alive.”
The appointment in June was to provide me with a temporary set so that the permanents could be adjusted and ordered. I returned in September for my first “try-in” with the permanent, but they weren’t the correct color or fit. So the dentist reordered them and I returned in early October for the permanents that I have in today.
Six months after the initial procedure, I’ve had to learn how to eat differently, my bite has changed. I have a sensitivity to cold and hot drinks or food. I am not eating an apple by biting on one unless it’s cut into small pieces. I almost always need to drink out of a straw due to the pain that still exists from the dental work. But the pros outweigh all the cons. I have no doubt that my ability to walk with and smile with confidence today is due to this investment I’ve made in myself. Every single day I get compliments about my smile. I’m 39 and I’ve never smiled in photos and was embarrassed when someone caught me mid-laugh in a photo with my missing teeth showing.
In the past few months, job searching lead to interviews in person and over video for over 20 job applications. I’ve done video chats with friends in my Location Indie community as well. There’s no doubt that I feel much more confident in conversations with others because of this amazing smile that I now can call my own.
This leads me to a new job opportunity that I’ll start in the new year as well! I’m no longer going to be stuck behind a computer in a box! I’ll be starting to do outside sales and will be traveling to meet business owners in my community and engage and interact with locals. I wouldn’t feel nearly as confident in my ability to close a deal if I hadn’t done the work of improving my smile. My inside sales job taught me how to listen to the needs of a client and connect with how I can offer a solution. Now I get to do that in person! If you are in the Central Pennsylvania area, I hope to greet you with this smile in the near future!