Dental Damn

Auschwitz survivors.  To me they are the epitome of human determination.  I cannot comprehend the agony of their experience.  But I deeply admire their will to triumph, to persevere in the face of all obstacles.  When I am feeling wimpy,  facing the unknown or have a personal obstacle to overcome, I challenge myself.  I will not buckle.  I will not fail.  If people survived years of abuse and deprivation, surely I can accomplish anything for one hour, even sitting in a dentist chair.

You have heard of Captain America and Iron Man.  I am busy competing for the title of Silver Woman, The Caped Cavity, or perhaps The Dental Dame.  I was not blessed with strong pearly whites, never had braces and have always hated my smile.  My fifteenth year was particularly heinous dentist-wise, with several cavities followed by wisdom tooth extraction and subsequent infections.  I was in that chair so often I jokingly greeted my dentist with “Hi Dad, I’m home.”  Perhaps that was the year that scarred me.

I do follow protocol, brush and floss. Yet I am filled with shame when the hygienist sighs and starts rambling on about fruit juices and soda, neither of which I drink.  I am not a child but certainly feel like one.  I have a small palate and lots of teeth on a small jaw.  I know people have much worse circumstances than mine, but when I see that rubber dam coming that they want to put in the back of my mouth I feel like throwing a tantrum.  I hate feeling like I am choking, or that I can’t swallow or breathe properly.  It brings me back to my childhood asthmatic days, before inhalers were a thing.

I scold myself, school my expression and make jokes.  I appear completely comfortable and relaxed.  My interior monologue allows no outward show of nerves or cowardice. I will not give in to displaying fear.  I will do what has to be done and emerge a conqueror. So I keep my appointments and suffer through one afternoon.  Humans in this world have tolerated situations unimaginably worse. Whining or cringing brings deeper shame than any diagnosis could.  I have dignity.  I am a grown-up.

Granted I am a grown-up who feels like she got slugged in the jaw with a baseball bat but my yearly trials are complete.  I have no shame.  I gracefully survived.


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