Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I’m a Dendrophobe

I’m walking down a flight of stairs, I lose my footing, and I fall forward, landing on my face, and then slide down a few steps until I come to a stop at the bottom with my teeth knocked out and my mouth bloody. I haven’t been to the dentist in two years, and I finally show up for my cleaning, only to learn that my teeth are almost totally decayed; half of them will need root canals, and half will need to be taken out. I get into a bar fight (I’m scrappy) and someone knocks out my teeth with a pool cue.

For the last several months, I’ve been having these horrible thoughts about something catastrophic happening to my teeth. They’re not “visions” or “premonitions,” since I don’t have a strong sense that any of these thoughts will come true. They can’t be nightmares, because I’m awake. It’s especially bad on stairs.

I looked it up, and there’s a name for this fear: Dendropophobia. Fear of losing your teeth.

Trust me on this: do NOT google image search "knocked out teeth."
This is the least horrifying picture I got.

I love my teeth. They form a really beautiful smile, and I have long considered my smile to be my best quality. It’s the kind of smile I’m often afraid to unleash upon strangers in full force, as it often causes people to spontaneously fall in love with me.

I’m only slightly exaggerating. It’s a good smile.

I think my fears of losing my teeth are connected to aging. I’m still quite young, but I’ll be thirty within five years, and I’ll only get older from there. There’s nothing wrong with aging---I think women become more confident and comfortable as they age---but I do sometimes worry about where I’ll be when my skin is no longer as tight or smooth as it is now. These thoughts have always been mitigated by the calming idea that I’ll always have my teeth.

Until one day a few months ago...I first had the thought of falling down stairs. I haven’t been able to shake them. For the last several months, I’ve been waking up with my teeth tightly clenched.

I went to the dentist today for the first time in about a year and a half. I was terrified that one of my visions would come true, but I knew I had to start taking steps to rid myself of these horrible mental pictures. The prognosis was better than I thought: one cavity, one potential trouble spot. I’m supposed to consult with a periodontist about receding gums (remember when your parents/dentists told you to brush your teeth really well as a kid? we now know that hard brushing causes receding gums in adulthood. thanks for telling me now!) (this might have to wait until I get better dental coverage). The dentist noticed signs that I’d been gnashing my teeth in my sleep, so I’m going to get fitted for an overnight bite guard.

I feel a bit better now that I’ve enlisted a professional to take care of concrete problems.

I still think I’ll be taking it extra-slowly on staircases, though.

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