Living Simply

Smile? Okay!

When I was in 6th grade, I thought it would be fun to ride my Flexy Racer down one of the steepest streets in my hilly suburb. It was great fun! I sat on the Flexy and steered with my feet and felt pretty damn bad-ass. But the street ended in a sharp curve to the right, and I couldn’t negotiate it with my feet. I couldn’t brake either, since my feet were controlling the combination steering AND braking pedals. I hit the curb really hard, flew off the Flyer, and landed in the gutter pretty much face-first. I scraped my face pretty badly and chipped my front tooth. It was the week of school photos, too.

When I was in 9th grade I had nine fillings, and received a stern lecture to brush, floss, avoid sugar, yadda yadda.  I had been trying my absolute best to take care of my teeth, I was doing all those things, and all it got me was dental betrayal and lectures.

When I was in high school, I alternated between feeling invisible and feeling like I stood out as the class rodent. My bucked front teeth were hard to miss.  They weren’t my fault. But they were my burden.

When I was 22, my dentist was at the end of his rope over my gums. I flossed. I waterpikked. I did everything right but still I was in trouble. I endured a surgery in which strips were cut from the roof of my mouth and sewn to the gumline just below my teeth, in an attempt to give them more strength. It was horrible. I wore a hard plastic form against the roof of my mouth until it could heal, which took two months. It was very painful.

When I was 26, I got braces. My bucked teeth were straightened, finally. They were smoothed to hide my chip, too. However, directly below them, I had two bottom teeth that were turned almost sideways, as I have a small jaw and it barely had room to hold all my teeth. Those two took the tectonic plate shift for the rest. The dentist pulled one of those, then soldered a ring around the other with a loop on it, and quite literally towed it into position as part of my braces setup.  He parallel parked my tooth.

After braces came a series of root canals, wisdom teeth removals, at least four  fillings EVERY visit, and more lectures to do everything I was already doing.

I started to wish I didn’t have teeth at all.

Time passed. That parallel parked tooth became loose, as it wasn’t well-grounded after crossing a vast distance in tooth-miles. The dozens and dozens of fillings I’d had began to rebel. It was as if my teeth were rejecting them.  More time passed and I stopped wishing I had no teeth and starting asking if we could make that happen.  No. No dentist was willing because I was still too young. No dentist cared about my lifetime of problems. “We can save them.”  “But I don’t WANT them.”

Two months ago I found a new dentist, one I hoped might listen and sympathize. He did, and agreed that my life was being stifled by a fear of smiling, the tension of waiting for the next mouth-based rebellion, and the now-accelerating damage my teeth were doing to themselves. We agreed on a seven-week plan of action, which would culminate in a smile I could easily share with the world, and teeth that were not rebellious little bitches holding my mouth hostage.

Over these past seven weeks, I have been transitioning towards a full upper plate and a partial lower (I have five rather well behaved teeth down there which can anchor a partial.)  Yesterday, the transition became complete.

I’m very happy. Yeah, I’m sore as heck and popping pain pills often, but it’s huge progress for me. My mouth is healing instead of rebelling. I finally got my say. Most importantly, I was allowed to take control of a part of my body I’d needed to take charge of for a very long time but was never allowed to make decisions on.

Just before I left the dentist’s office yesterday, the staff excitedly asked to see my smile – and they did! And then they gave me a festive bottle of sparkling cider tied up with shiny ribbons.  We celebrated new beginnings, so long overdue.

If you are in the East Lansing Michigan area and in need of a dentist, contact me privately. I have nothing but praise and gratitude for my dentist and would gladly recommend him.

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.


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