I’m a clencher. I’ve been clenching my teeth in my sleep for a long time, and a couple of months ago “in my sleep” became “pretty much all the time.” Eating Starbursts has been out of the question for a while, which is sad, because I really, really love Starbursts.
Recently, I began waking up to find my tongue shoved against my front teeth and noticed that it’s much easier lately to floss my uppers (oral hygiene can sound so dirty!) than it used to be. I started having dreams about my teeth rotting and falling out of my head and became convinced that my teeth are moving around and Billy Bob comparisons are imminent. That is, if I don’t manage to fracture and grind them all down first.
So I got my ass to the dentist on Tuesday for a TMJ/ortho consult. After I sat around for a half hour in a freezing cold waiting area, where I pondered for five solid minutes what in the world waiting areas have to do with fish tanks, the orthodontist introduced herself and brought me back to a chair.
She poked around in my mouth for a bit and said, “I see you’ve had orthodontics.” “No,” I said, “I haven’t.” “Wow! All these poor people come in here and suffer for years for teeth like yours.”
I giggled nervously not knowing really how to reply to that in the most normal of circumstances, much less with someone else’s fingers in my mouth, as if I’d just been called an ungrateful bitch, and worried that I was fogging up her dental instrument with my breath.
She stuck her pinkies in my ears and asked me to open and close my mouth, which was by far one of the oddest feelings I’ve ever experienced. Then, she poked my jaw muscles with her fingers, asking if I had any pain, which was one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced. “No, but, you know, a jaw massage would feel really great right now.” I tried my hardest to answer her question honestly without making it sound as though I was coming on to her. She smiled and said she understood that it felt a whole lot like a tense neck. Yes, I decided, I liked her very much, backhanded compliments notwithstanding.
After she removed her hands from my various orifices, she folded them in her lap and explained to me with no small amount of gravity that my jaw is in some trouble, and a piece of cartilage had slipped, and blah blah fractured teeth and root canals eventually, but the good news is that a splint worn nightly could really help me out quite a bit and prevent all that future pain.
I hesitated and then asked, “And about how much would that cost?” She left to find someone else who could figure that out for me. After another long, freezing wait, in which I noticed a stack of Mexican blankets on the floor next to me and considered picking one up, the total came back: $700, and would I like to schedule my appointment now? I told them, um, I would call them back and let them know, thanks. Then I got to the front desk and found out that that the consultation fee for today’s appointment was $75. $75 dollars to be told I need to spend $700. I paid and got the hell out of there before any other startling figures could jump out of no where and assault me.
As I was walking out of the office, I called Cautionary Husband and told him that they wanted to make a $700 splint for me. He paused for a bit and asked how much I needed it. I told him I could need it for $200, maybe, but not $700. He told me that NPR recently did a story on clenching and grinding, and how all the stress of this economy has been great for the dental industry. He said I only get one set of teeth, however, and that I should take care of them.
I reminded him that we’re paying $4,500 to the government next week (for reasons my accountant sister could explain to you very well, but about which I really have no clue, except something about percentages and brackets), and said that the nightguard I got at Target a few months ago will hold me over just fine for the next while. When I bought it, I thought $40 seemed a little steep for a tiny piece of plastic, but now it seems like a goddamn steal.
Later that night I found a disturbing anonymous comment about the identity of Cautionary Lover. I managed to delete it, but not before it had been up for two hours. I also changed my settings so that now all comments must be first approved by me before they can be published. But that comment, about how I’m basically an asshole (my own word) who isn’t being discreet enough and could be ruining the lives of many people by writing about my life publicly, however “anonymously,” really got its hooks into me.
Cautionary Husband invited me over to his apartment for some chocolate cake, and I showed up white-faced. When he asked me what was wrong, I burst into tears and told him about the comment and about how foolish I am, that I did such foolish things, foolishly believing that they wouldn’t hurt anyone, and then I proceeded to foolishly write about these foolish things, and now everything has gone to shit and I’m foolish to the infinity power and I can’t seem to stop being so foolish.
He calmly listened to me and let me know that he’s here for me. And that maybe I do need to be more careful about what I write here, but honestly, there’s not a whole lot I can do about the situation. And, if nothing else, I can find solace in the fact that, even if the situation continues to fall apart, things couldn’t possibly get worse for me.
What he said reminded me of an April Fool’s someecard I’d read that day that said, “Nothing you pull on me this April Fool’s Day could be worse than anything that’s already happened to me this year,” and that made me smile. I looked into his brown eyes with the full knowledge that he was right, and that despite all my foolish foolishness, he’s not going anywhere. Such stability in this very unstable time feels like a luxury. I told him how grateful I am for him. And began drawing in long, shaky breaths.
We were quiet for a while. I thought about the effect all this stress is having on me emotionally as well as physically, how I feel as though I’m literally falling apart every day, inside and out. Then I propped myself up on one arm, looked at him and said, “It’s sweet of you to care about my teeth.”
He replied, “Well, I don’t want you to be all gangly when I kiss you.”