I’m way too young to have old people teeth. Maybe I didn’t drink enough milk when I was a gamine. To me, the topic of root canal, conjures up images of people they find on “Extreme Makeovers” or my political science teacher at SCU. One day, as he was lecturing us about the US government (and passionately so) -- blood came gushing from his mouth like Dracula who had just lunched on someone’s neck. After 5 minutes or what seemed like an uncomfortable eternity, a girl in the front row told him politely that his mouth was bleeding. “Oh, root canal,” he barked nonchalantly.
The whole dental journey started last year right when I ventured off into the self-employment world. With only a month to use up a previous employer’s benefits, I took the bull by the horns and had all my yearly checkups (or in my case, multi-year catchups) within the span of 5 days.
I consider myself of average courageousness and tolerance when it comes to the medical things in life; the spreading of the eagle isn’t all that frightening –except for the occasional cold hands and that weird metal clamp thingie. Needles, blood work and peeing in a cup -- manageable. But when it comes to my teeth, I’m a 3 feet tall munchkin all over again. There isn’t a lollipop or balloon big enough to get me to open my chops.
Some how, I decided to get a grip and take on my dental demons once and for all. Moving to San Francisco in 2008, it was difficult to find a new dentist I could trust. Luckily, he was highly recommended -- the most amazing dentist. I never thought it was possible to find a dentist who made my teeth feel beautiful – an Adonis among dentists! He’ll be fighting and zapping away cavities in one moment, then gleefully applying peppermint chapstick on my parched lips, the next. Dr Bridges got me caught up on the missing years and ahead of the curve.
After all the love and care and some determined born-again flossing and maintenance, it wasn't enough. I’ve always had problems with this one tooth on the right side of my mouth. Ever since I was a teenager this tooth (aka black sheep) was always fickle and sensitive in times of weather change or even during life dramas that caused me to grind my teeth at night. I wonder what year the cavity started forming on the crown and later inside the root shaft making its way to the bone. Was it the year I didn’t get to go to prom? Not majoring what I most wanted to in college, English or Art, or much later, stress at work --taking things too personally, doing anything to rise up the corporate ladder. Were all those years of blocked pain and anger internalized by black sheep tooth?
Last Wednesday, for an hour and a half, my heart was in my throat. I felt like Jaime Sommers in the opening credits to the Bionic Woman – “anatomical damage: black sheep tooth—operational procedure: bionic replacement – estimated cost: classified”. I looked into Dr Bridges' blue eyes, like the color of the spring sky to comfort me. That day, I decided to treat myself by picking the free coconut chapstick instead of my usual mint.
When I came home, I mourned the old part of me. I made myself a cup of warm Yogi Ginger tea, the quote on the tea bag said, “for every loss, there’s equal gain…” That made me feel better; helped put things into perspective.
It’s been a week now since the procedure. It feels good, a new part of me reborn; it feels good, another chance.
RIP black sheep.
By Mai Brehaut