Hands up. Who hates going to the dentist?
I mean, thank goodness dentists exist but how do they go to work everyday in the midst of high anxiety and pain and with the knowledge that their patients would rather be anywhere but in that chair?
Or, maybe it's just me. My early years in the dental office were fraught with trauma. Back then, children were expected to trust, respect and never question the grown-ups. Dentistry was forced upon me. In fact, on a couple of memorable occasions, I was tricked, lied to and literally held down by the dental assistant while the dentist went at my teeth with that horrific tasting fluoride. It was as if my very life depended on swishing that swill around in my mouth, getting it into all the nooks and crannies. All while trying desperately to avoid it hitting the taste buds on my tongue.
Also, something I've never understood is why dental work is not covered by our provincial health plan. It's like our teeth are a separate entity from the rest of the body and never the twain shall meet. Every other bodily organ and limb is cared for by one medical profession - doctors, GPs, and specialists. For what infraction were our teeth and gums cast out of the physical health club? Why did a whole other profession have to spring up to cover off where doctors never, ever go. In fact, when a doctor asks you to stick out your tongue, they are looking at the back of your throat, completely bypassing the entire dental realm.
So, not only does dentistry cost us (a whole lot of) money but because our teeth are siphoned off, there is little to connect the health of our mouths to the overall health of our bodies. It wasn't until I paid a visit to a holistic dentist a couple of years ago who explained to me that inflammation in the rest of the body also affects the health of the gums and, by extension, our teeth. What?? Who knew? Not me.
I recently suffered through the excruciating pain of a cracked molar and subsequent extraction of said molar, four long days later. This is the third molar I have lost. The first one resulted in an implant, the second one in a crown and this one, hopefully dear god the last, will just be left to its own devices. I'll have a gaping hole at the back of my mouth saddled between the implant and the non-emergent wisdom tooth that, should it decide to now stretch its wings, will grow out sideways and, no doubt, cause all manner of dental chaos.
I am intrigued by the holistic theory that each of our teeth corresponds to different organs, emotions and chakras. And that a prolonged imbalance in any of those areas can show up in our mouths as cavities, gum disease, and, yes, cracked molars. So, I pulled out this handy dandy chart and checked the corresponding lost molar. Number 17 connects to the heart and small intestine. It energetically holds the emotions of loneliness, acute grief, feeling trapped, lack of joy and feeling unlovable. Well, now.
The months long pandemic with its attendant loss of socializing, the absence of family & friends, the restrictions on movement and travel, the inability to escape one's home even for a few hours
My mother's cancer prognosis and death three weeks later
The complete lack of communal mourning because gathering is not allowed
The phasing out of my counselling practice
The numerous deaths among family and friends
Not to mention the myriad distressing world issues coming to light
I'm thinking there just might be something to this mind/body/tooth thing. Loneliness, check. Acute grief, check. Feeling trapped, check. Lack of joy, check. Feeling unlovable, sometimes.
During the four days of excruciating pain, I took more than my share of Tylenol and Advil and had three ice packs in rotation to staunch the throbbing. In the middle of the night, the pain took on metaphysical qualities. Like labour pains, those otherworldly waves of ungodly agony, the tooth's aching came in waves. I pleaded with whatever entities were best positioned to help. I offered the pain to Mother Earth. I did deep breathing just like the lovely Sharon Edmonds of Simply Yoga has taught me to do. It all did and didn't help.
It wasn't until I actually took a moment and faced the discomfort head-on that I realized I had been avoiding rather than engaging. Like a cranky, overtired toddler, my tooth was trying to communicate with me. What was it trying to tell me? I did some deep listening, took some moments to really connect with the wisdom of the pain and found that release of pent up emotions was what was needed. I hadn't really cried since my mother died or even since the world took a devastating turn for the worse.
I've been numb, disconnected from myself, overwhelmed by wave after wave of grief-inducing circumstances. Yeah, my heart chakra needed some tender loving care. And my tooth was carrying the weight of it all. Now that it is gone, I feel a release from those compounded emotions. There is still some residual pain which I imagine will ease and then disappear entirely. It feels for now, though, that the lines of communication are still open, faintly reminding me to listen, to pay attention, and to not let it get this far next time.
Thank you, Molar Number 17. Lesson noted and gratitude acknowledged.
Speaking of gratitude, I want to offer a shout out to the compassionate and professional folks at Heritage Dental in Orangeville, Ontario. Dr. Faisal Waseem and all the gals who gathered around me with a blanket, a pillow, a kind word, an oral sedative and nitrous oxide (which is the only way I can get myself into the dentist chair), made my experience one of the least unpleasant I have ever had.