Monday, 23 December 2013
Having been anorexic for years, I now have gum disease which was undetected for a while courtesy of a NHS dentist, which has meant having to lose some of my teeth. But I was unprepared for being quite so upset over these teeth…
A few days ago, I went to the dentist to have a tooth out. He inspected it carefully, then the one next to it, and said, very gently, that really both should come out, “though I’m not sure if you can manage that.”
I wasn’t sure whether he meant psychologically or financially, but he explained that if I didn’t have the second one out now, it would have to come out in January, by which time it could be causing me trouble. He then talked about possible dentures or implants, and as he talked I could feel the tears dribbling down my cheeks. Actually what I really wanted was a good howl, but that’s a bit tricky in front of the dentist.
He stopped, poor man, and said, “I’m really sorry to have upset you, Sue,” I was, too, but he was only doing his job, poor fellow. So I took a deep breath, had visions of toothache over Christmas and said, “OK. Take them both out.”
He tipped me back in the chair, and both he and the nurse carefully dried my tears as he injected anaesthetic, then asked if my boat was out of the water. Well, sailing is always guaranteed to cheer me up – and him, so soon the deed was done. Afterwards, I felt desperately bereft, and sobbed onto the steering wheel.
Talking to several friends later, they both pointed out that they’re always upset over losing teeth – “they’re part of us, and our life,” one said, “as well as how we look.” The other one said, “and you’re bound to be wobbly if Mr B’s just left, so it’s not surprising.”
But it got me thinking, what did these teeth represent? I’d always had Good Teeth, but gradually, over the years, they’d become loose so I couldn’t chew on that side. But I didn’t want to lose them – they’re at the back so you can’t really see them, but I was still scared. It was a long standing part of me. And let’s face it – teeth are one of the first things we notice about people.
And it made me think of how my teeth were very like a relationship that has gone wrong. Or a job that is so stressful it makes you ill (like most of us, I’ve had both). We hang onto the situation for ages, because it’s too much hassle to change it or end it, or there’s no other job out there, or we’re frightened, or it’s going to hurt too much, or we don’t want to let the other person or our colleagues down. For all those reasons and more, we sometimes hang on to situations that are doing us no favours at all.
As I left yesterday, my dentist handed me another tissue and smiled. “You’ve done the right thing, Sue,” he said. “Your mouth will soon feel much better.”
When Mr B rang to ask how I was, I said, “I feel as if my jaw’s been attacked with a crowbar,” but the next day, although I felt sore, exhausted and weepy, and there was a huge hole in my mouth, I had a sense of relief. I was going through all those wretched grief feelings, but like ending that toxic relationship or chucking in the job that’s making you ill, I know I am better off without those teeth.
So this Christmas/New Year, I am going to have a good think about the rest of my life. What am I not happy with? What changes do I need to make, and how could I do that?
Wishing you all a happy Christmas. And if you aren’t where you wish to be, let’s hope you are next year.