“Anything been bothering you?” my dentist asks every 6 months. I am a diligent brusher and flosser and the good result is that I have been cavity-free for years. Since the dentist usually has her hands in my mouth when she asks the question, I simply answer in a guttural negative.
The fact is I’m lying. One of my lower molars on the left side of my mouth is sensitive and sometimes aches. I chew mostly on my right side and often worry my ancient filling with my tongue. This has been the case for years. And years ago, she pointed out that this tooth had a slight crack and I’d probably eventually need a crown. Money was tight then, so when she told me the probable cost I balked.
This news, along with once enduring an excruciating “scaling” procedure, has made me ultra-vigilant when it comes to my mouth. I am also determined not to be like my mother whose teeth were a mess because of her lack of mouth-maintenance. She claimed she had a phobia of the dentist. I vow to not ever let my mouth get the way hers was in the last years of her life. Besides, research indicates a link between gum disease and heart disease.
And yet, there I go, lying to the dentist. And it’s no longer because of money. I feel dismay at a big bill from the car mechanic but I still fix the car. This is my body we’re talking about. But I also have dentist-fear. I hate the image of what I vaguely understand they do to your tooth: grinding it down to a nub and attaching the fake bit on, right? Ugh. No, I lie about my discomfort because I’m chicken and it doesn’t hurt quite enough.
But recently, I’ve decided I better act now. One day, it might be the money again. Bless Barnes & Noble, I currently have great coverage – including dental. A good chunk (oh, my poor tooth!) of the cost would be covered. And so I am prepping myself to bite the bullet (!) at my next visit and answer the call of my molar.
Acknowledging my dental-denial has reminded me of how I behaved for years; my avoidance of dealing with the painful truth. I convinced myself things weren’t really that bad and surely they’d get better. If distress was not perpetual – day-in and day-out – I ignored it. I am an easy mark and could be distracted by sweet talk and what proved to be only hollow promises. Anything to avoid conflict and anything rather than give up on the illusion of the happy family. This used to be me. It’s not uncommon – mostly women do it – dismiss our pain insisting we’re okay, really we are. Excuses, rationalizing reasons for other’s bad behavior. Anything to avoid giving up on the one we love. Chewing on the other side to avoid confronting and dealing with the pain of taking the steps to end it.
But I’ve learned over the years, that even after the most terrible pain can come incredible serenity and bliss.
And at the dentist office, I’ll just ask for lots of Novocaine.
Who do you lie to?