Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.

I love my doctor. Oh, not that way. Besides, I don’t go for teddybear types, no matter how sweet.

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

Good surprises are really nice every now and then, and today  was  one of them. I’d gone to Dr. Z, fully expecting to leave with much less of a tooth, a much lighter purse, and the considerable physical and fiscal pain that accompanies getting a porcelain crown. I came home gleefully intact.

It’s a strange story and, had I not changed dentists a couple of  years ago, I’ll bet the ending wouldn’t have been nearly so happy. But it goes back a few years, back to January of


During the time I was desperately trying to hold onto my  marriage, I was on Ambien, a sleeping pill, for about six weeks,  and   Effexor,  an  anti-depressant,  for  around  three months, then almost as long weaning myself from that damnable little jewel, one Effexor “beebee” at a time, two or three if I was daring and willing to endure the  weird brain-zaps. I took myself off of the Effexor because I realized anti-depressants just kept me from feeling anything at all when what I needed to do was change my situation to something that didn’t feel bad. Feel- ing is good—I’m gonna have a T-shirt made that says that! I had to stop giving up my dreams to please other people and committing the suicide of my personality. Anti-depressants made me more compliant when what I really needed was to learn to kick some ass.

I hated Effexor and how hard it was to endure the withdrawal symptoms (though technically they don’t call it withdrawal because it’s supposedly not addictive but it does give you a new set of weirdness when you stop taking it, especially if you quit cold turkey, which I couldn’t do and function, too). But for as much as I didn’t like being on it, I admit it was absolutely necessary at the time. I’d been without sleep for too many nights in a row, was too raw with emotion and hopelessness, was spending too much time on my front doorstep at 4 a.m., hugging my knees and sobbing while the rest of the hemisphere slept. The anti-depressant gave  me a reprieve while I pulled myself together, got some sleep, and advanced to a better position (vs a retreat).

The drug has about 25 known side effects and I had them all except for the gastric ones, plus a few rarely reported ones and some exceedingly fffffffrrrrrrrrrustratingones. Among the effects on me was  clenching my jaws until they ached—and even grinding my teeth. In spite  of my emotional crisis, I had not been clenching my jaws until the drug kicked in. Odd, but as soon as I came off the drug, the clenching and grinding stopped, even though it was another year before I filed for divorce.

I was a little worried two months ago in December when a molar turned sensitive and grew steadily worse until I went to see Dr. Z several weeks ago. I called for a quickie, work-me-in appointment one morning after deciding maybe I could micro- wave my toothpaste so it wouldn’t be so friggin’ frigid. The receptionist asked which side and instead of saying “lower right,” I got distracted and said, “lower bottom,” and we laughed for several minutes about it.

My appointment went well, with an X-ray showing no cavities but the tooth being sensitive enough on one cusp that we figured it was  cracked. Dr. Z didn’t push for me to get it crowned right away, and he said I could live with it as is for as long  as  I  wanted  to.  This  week,  I  didn’t  want  to  anymore.

So today, I showed up, nervous, remembering my previous lunatic of a dentist and my very real fear that she was going to suffocate me while she filled a tooth—covering my nostrils and throat and while yelling at me, “If you’ll hold your breath another minute, I’ll be done!” Sorry,  but  breathplay and dentistry should never mix.  Dr. Z fixed her messes and has never ever hurt me, but the memories are strong.

He numbed my jaw and as it took effect, I asked if he was numbing top and bottom. “Uh, no, just the top,” his assistant said.

Uh-oh. I was there for a crown on the bottom molar. The top wasn’t bothering me. My last dentist had convinced me to let her replace a filling in a tooth that wasn’t bothering me, then the filling became an unexpected uh-we’re-gonna-have-to- crown-this while I was in the chair. And if you think I wasn’t happy about that….six months later, I had to have a root canal in a tooth that had been perfectly happy before she convinced me that “one day, it’ll give you trouble so let’s take care of it now.” My blood pressure probably shot up as the deja vu sank in.

But the receptionist had written down the right upper instead of lower. X-rays had been taken of the right upper instead of lower. Dr. Z had tested the right upper…and all along I’d thought he was looking at the lower.

As swamped as he was, he stopped everything to get an X-ray of  the bottom tooth, which showed nothing. He tested the tooth,  determining  very, very quickly (at great risk to his health because my reflexes are quite good!) that yes, the bottom one did hurt. Hmmm. My former dentist (been there, done that) would  have  pressed  for  two  crowns,  but  Dr.  Z—bless  his heart—weighed the odds—and suggested we not crown anything at this point but look at some other options. Like  how rare it would be to have two molars cracked and hurting at the same time.

Apparently, my  Roofer  Hell  triggered  something  that made me grind my teeth again. Geez, I wonder why! It’s the jaw clenching and grinding that’s most likely the culprit, so I left Dr. Z’s office with a lovely new fashion accessory, a mouth guard, to wear for at night for the next two weeks at bedtime and feeling   very   fortunate   at   not   facing   a   couple   of   crowns.

Not exactly the romantic option for Valentine’s Day, but then, I haven’t made any plans for that night anyway other than to wrap up alone  in a blanket, crawl into the backyard ham- mock, and indulge myself in a little gazing at the full moon.


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