Dear readers and your teeth that can’t read, but wouldn’t that be super freaky if they could?
This morning I brushed my teeth in the way that I was directed by my new dentist. As I explained a long, long time ago, I have what’s called a facial maloclussion. This is a deformity caused by a genetic mutation. It means that my jaw is misshapen, I have a severe underbite, the roof of my jaw is caved in, some of my teeth are in the wrong place, and in general my face,mouth, and jaw are in constant pain no matter what I do. As you can imagine, this makes brushing my teeth kind of a fucking nightmare, so I have to do things a little differently than most people do.
Going to the dentist is always incredibly stressful for me. It is for many people, but the fact that I have my facial maloclussion makes all dental work even more complicated than it already is. The complications are made even worse by the fact that I also suffer from vasovagal syncope, a fainting disorder in which my body over reacts to an external trigger. My triggers are sharp, sudden pain, overheating, dehydration, and severe emotional stress. If I encounter any of these, my heart rate and blood pressure plunge, and then, well, the rest of me does, too, and I hit the floor unconscious. Syncopal episodes can happen over and over, too. It’s super fun! (I’m totally lying!)
This means that should I need any type of dental work, I can’t simply be numbed out with a needle to the gums. Instead, I have to go through an ordeal of either meeting with a dentist that does completely knock people out, or hiring an external anesthesiologist, which costs around 2,000 dollars and isn’t covered by insurance. It is beyond frustrating knowing that I have to go through this every. Single. Time.
The last dentist I had before moving to Missouri was Dr. Nader, a sweet dentist that I had from the time I was 13 to literally the week I moved. He was unbelievably kind about my health conditions and amazingly patient. I would run to him every few months in terrible pain with my teeth, sure I would need some sort of horrible procedure immediately. Every time my teeth were fine. Turns out, having the entire weight of my jaw rest on only my four back teeth makes my teeth grumpy, so every few months they get sore and tired, and raise hell. I also have constant TMJ spasms, which can best be described as a Charlie Horse in the face that lasts around two weeks. I knew that these were happening to me, yet my anxiety and fear of dental work had me running in a frenzy to Dr. Nader every time because I was afraid that the one time I would blow it off, would be the time that something else would be wrong.
I constantly apologized to Dr. Nader for bothering him with nonsense and false alarms. His reply was the same every visit. “You are very dear to me,” he spoke softly, “if you are worried or in pain you can always come to me and we will make sure everything is okay.” Hearing that compared to being rejected by other dentists several times in my life because my situation was “too complicated” or they “didn’t have time to deal with it” was almost unreal.
Aaaand then there was the day about two years ago when the dentist had found that after 2 years of NEVER having a single cavity, I suddenly had 14. FOURTEEN FUCKING CAVITIES. I was stunned; I brushed my teeth so well! I have a electric toothbrush! I FUCKING FLOSS. Well, I was stunned until Dr. Nader informed me that the reason they had all suddenly popped up was because I have Celiac Disease, which, big surprise, causes bone loss. Teeth are made of bone, not marshmallows as I originally thought. DISAPPOINT!
Dr. Nader, being the serious badass that he is, made a deal with me that since I’d have to be knocked out fully, he would do all 14 fillings at once. So, I set up the appointment, found an anesthesiologist, and starved myself the day of the appointment because that’s what you have to do when you’re about to be filled with a buttload of drugs. As if the day wasn’t already going to suck enough, the anesthesiologist ended up being an hour and a half late; I thought for sure I’d have to reschedule, but Dr. Nader and his assistant Audrey ended up staying two hours past their usual time to do the procedure. Later on I found out that not only did they fill all my cavities, but he doubled checked and found two more which he filled, and did a deep cleaning to help me reach my dream of never having to do through this bullshit ever again.
I was so amazed by the love and care his office showed me. And good lord, did my jaw and mouth hurt the next week! I wanted to repay him and Audrey, so I ended up making them cupcakes and cards that said, “You’re so sweet you give me cavities!” GET IT?! DO YOU GET IT YOU GUYS?! …Anyway.
One of the worst parts of moving away from home was having to gather an entirely new medical team to handle my giant mountain of illnesses, diseases, syndromes and, mysterious “ughs.” I still don’t really have a team to be honest, and since I am losing my insurance next month, it seems futile to do so now. However, I did find a fabulous dentist. I went to visit them last week, and while I did not have any cavities (thank you Dr. Nader!) I did have borderline gum disease, which would have explained the awful metal taste in my mouth the last few months. I had to have a deep cleaning, which they usually numbed patients for. I explained to the dentists my entire complex medical history, and I half expected them to tell me to go somewhere else. Instead, the dentist asked me questions about what he could do, what exactly it would take to get me to vasovagal, and said he even knew several ways for us to handle a situation where I’d need more dental work should it ever arise.
I was given a topical anesthetic before the cleaning, but I was still terrified I’d feel too much and trigger my Vasovagal Syncope. The hygienist explained that she’d do a regular cleaning first, then the deep cleaning second. I nervously sat there, mouth open wide, as the hygienist did her work. She told me the anesthetic would only last 30 minutes, and before I knew it 20 minutes had gone by. “When is she going to do the painful parts?” I wondered. I felt a few sharp pokes here and there, which meant that I’d definitely feel the hardest parts of the cleaning. I got more and more anxious, until I was given a small break to rest my jaw. “When are you going to do the deep cleaning? I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m just worried about the anesthesia wearing off.” I kind of told her with a numbed face and tongue. “I already did it, it was the first thing I did, actually,” she smiled.
Well then. That happened.
I’ve had dentists respond vastly differently to my facial maloclussion. One dentist called over all the dentists in his office to ogle me like a circus animal, then said in front of them all, “are you self conscious about how you look? Well, of course you are, I mean, look at you.” But then I had doctors such as Dr. Nader who assured me he would do anything he could to ease my anxious mind, and every time I cried, would patiently take my hand in his and tell me we’d figure it out.
Having a plethora of illnesses and medical conditions that make even the most simple things difficult is a real nightmare, but the nightmare is offset by kind and caring doctors that reach far above what is expected of them to help those in need. I am so amazingly thankful for those doctors who take the extra time to help me, despite the fact that I am many times one of their most challenging patients.
And now, a song full of dental puns, because I simply would not be me if I didn’t end this post this way.
I’ve been to the dentist a thousand times, so I know the drill.
I smooth my hair, sit back in the chair,
But somehow, I still get the chills.
“Have a seat” he says pleasantly,
As he shakes my hand, and practically laughs at me.
“Open up nice and wide” he says peering in.
And with a smirk he says “Don’t have a fit, this’ll just pinch a bit”
As he tries not to grin.
When hygienists leave on long vacations,
That’s when dentists scream and lose their patience.