Friday, June 2, 2017

Bad habits and teeth are hard to break

It was a typical weekday morning. I was eating breakfast at the kitchen table, gluten free waffles and meatless sausage patties, the result of recently shopping at Trader Joe's. As I bit down on a tiny, hard substance I recall thinking, “Hmm… what would be hard in a waffle and a non-meat sausage patty?

Immediately after this thought, one of my bottom front teeth felt strangely rough. I tried scraping off what I believed to be an offending piece of food stuck on the tooth, until it occurred to me that it wasn’t something stuck. It was something missing – the top of my tooth.

Here’s the thing. The minute you realize something in your mouth has changed, you start talking differently. I don’t know if you’d call it a lisp or a slur, but I was definitely compensating for my unhappy incisor. A detour to the dentist before work was obviously in order.

Now, ask yourself, is a dentist’s office a place where you would expect to find a “walk-ins welcome” sign? Absolutely not. But I did just that and I all but begged them to fit me in that day. Despite the business of their waiting room, they took me in for an x-ray and determined that only the top had broken off and could be repaired at the end of the day. I can do that, I figured. It wasn’t like I didn’t have a tooth at all – it was just the top that had broken off.

My tongue, on the other hand, had a different idea. It would not leave that dang tooth alone. No matter how hard I tried to consciously steer it away, my tongue kept gravitating toward the sharpest spot on that tooth until it had developed - to the surprise of no one – an extremely painful sore on the bottom.

During my work day, nobody seemed to have taken much notice of the chunk of missing tooth, my fool tongue was causing the most grief.

I’m a big baby at the dentist, stemming from bad childhood experiences, but this time I didn’t cringe hearing the drill that was smoothing the jagged edges down. It only took a few minutes for things to be packed, patched and polished so that it looked like the rest of my teeth. I had no idea they could make this kind of paste with a coffee stained hue.

This lovely little incident is believed to be the result of a life-long habit of mine - grinding my teeth. It often happens during the night in my sleep, where I don’t have much control (and yes, I’m considering a mouth piece). It also happens in daylight hours when I’m stressing or over thinking, and since the dental debacle I’ve noticed it happens because I seem to have an inexplicable need to tap my bottom front teeth with my top front teeth.

It’s a bad habit. There are others but this one takes the cake, or - in this case - the tooth. At this very moment, I am willing my teeth not to clang together, especially considering the fact that this filled-in spot is only as permanent as I make it by not biting down on anything too hard, and by stopping my own tooth abuse. I’m finding this to be quite the challenge. It’s fairly easy to avoid chomping down on anything that would loosen my dentist’s glorious work, but policing my own grinding is proving to be a challenge. However, becoming a frequent flyer at the dentist is not an option, so awareness will be a priority.

My tongue healed quickly and I am back to biting down, but with some caution. I can tell you this little mishap will not deter me from eating those gluten free waffles and meatless sausage patties.

Sometimes you just have to live dangerously.

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