Monday, September 12, 2016

My teeth are stressed out

My teeth are stressed out

“Do you grind your teeth?” My dentist sat back in her chair, small mirror in one hand and a dental pick in the other. I felt my teeth with my tongue. There’s a tiny crack off the back of my top front tooth and one on the back of my bottom front tooth.   I thought I just needed to floss out a piece of celery.
Such is not the case.
Forty nine is such a fun age.
“I think I do, maybe.” There’s no maybe about it. Of course I do. I always have. I have a spectacular case of TMJ to show for it, as well as a nerve in the back of my head/neck/cheek that flares from time to time if I really go at it.
“Your bruxism—that’s grinding—is causing your teeth to develop little chips. In effect, you’re breaking them off.” I’m grinding my teeth hard enough to crack them. The stress I am conscious of during the day is carrying over to nighttime, when I should be relaxing.
“I ordered a mouth guard off eBay and used that,” I tell her. “But I would wake up in the middle of the night with it pinching the insides of my cheeks. Because I’m grinding my teeth. Not to mention the fact that a) they smell b) they’re unsexy as hell and c) my dog will chew them up any time he can because see a).”  I don’t mention these points to her, no matter now salient they might be. I’m a little annoyed by the fact that she thought she had to explain bruxism to me. I also don't mention that I ordered cheek retractors like the one Melissa McCarthy wears in Boss to bring to the next family gathering for fun times.
“You need to find a better night guard, then,” she says. “Have you had any stress in your life that would cause you to grind your teeth?”
And then we both laughed and laughed.
“I’m not sure where to begin,” I tell her, my chin wobbling. “Oh, wait. I’ll just save it all for my therapist.”
“You probably should, but good news—identifying the stress might help manage it.”
Oh, right. Manage the stress. In the past year I’ve lost my grandparents, who had been married 75 years. We lost my husband’s mother in June of this year.
Stressful. Heartbreaking.
On the other side of the age spectrum, my daughters both had babies this year. My youngest daughter had baby Sophia at the end of January, and middle daughter had baby Shawn in the middle of July.

Stressful? You bet. Modern medicine is a wonder but sometimes births don’t go exactly as planned, either for the baby or the mother. Watching your daughter in labor, knowing exactly how they feel, is one of the hardest things ever. I was there for the births, patiently waiting with the prospective parents, coloring masterpieces in a coloring book that my niece makes. Because as everyone knows, coloring is supposed to be stress relieving.
I have published two books so far this year, Trouble Lake and Knew You’d Come. I’m about 12000 words into my second Kindle Worlds Mary O’Reilly paranormal mystery called Grave Injury, and I hope to have that out by the middle of October. When I’m on break, I’m editing the final draft of Elise, Evermore so that the third and final book in the Whitfield Witch trilogy will be complete. I hope to have that out by Halloween.
Stressful? Yes, even though I have great fun writing them. Ask any author—it’s very hard to rewrite, edit, secure a cover, proofread, and format a Kindle eBook, and even more difficult to format for Createspace.
The dentist clears her throat and pokes at my teeth a little more, then leans back to talk to me again.
“You’re not crunching ice, are you?” I don’t need to think hard about this, because yes, virtually every single night I have a glass of something (not always liquor, but mostly) that has ice in it and if that wasn’t enough, we have a spare glass full of ice to crunch and/or add to the glass. I crunch more ice in my teeth than three or four people combined.
“Sometimes, I think,” I lie through chipped teeth.
“You’re not supposed to do that. Don’t do that anymore.” I nod but I know that since I quit smoking 17 years ago, this has been my one and only vice. I lie again, of course. “I will try not to.”
I hadn’t been to the dentist since November of 2014, which the hygienist points out several times. I feel guilty but I was busy, dammit. She points out that I’m wearing a Pierce shirt and that our office is literally in the back of the building where my dentist is. I’m well aware. “I’m here now, though,” I say, but to make us all feel better I go ahead and schedule my six month visit for March of next year.
“For not being here for two years, however, your teeth are looking very good,” she digs in. “I’m seeing teeny little infection underneath one of your crowns, though.” The dentist has her assistant write me a referral for an endodontic specialist who’s almost an hour away. “Basically, you need to have a root canal on your root canal. You’ll need to call them. They’ll saw the top of your crown off, yank stuff out, put stuff in, and then put everything back right. I trust them.” She may have been a bit more technical but I didn’t hear that because I was already thinking of the Xanax I’ll have to take before those procedures.
How exciting. A “teeny little” infection in my tooth. A tooth that already has a root canal and a crown (and probably a crack in it.) That explains why I rocketed up out of my chair when I bit down wrong on a sesame seed.
Stress?  Yup. I’ll internalize it, as usual. But in the back of my mind, I’ll be thinking about that exciting upcoming endodontic visit. I’ll probably grind my teeth in my sleep harder than ever. They may even snap off while I sleep and I’ll wake up and resemble Tow Mater from Cars.
Good Ol Tow Mater
I guess there could be worse things. Unlike Tow Mater, I have dental insurance. One thing I won’t have to worry about.

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