I’m going to give a couple of minutes to my 2nd worst ever intrusive thought, which itself is hard to describe in a single title. But I’m calling it: Teeth.
It’s more than the teeth. It’s the jaw, the teeth, the hit, the symmetry, the bite, the way my words are formed now. It’s also the orthodontist and his death and the loop that would never leave my head.
This began in elementary school.
I loved my teeth in elementary school. I was proud of my giant gaps and all that, but the IMPORTANT part was that my teeth aligned PERFECTLY. When I bit down, the pressure on the left side of my mouth was exactly the same as the right side. AND, at the same time, my front teeth hit each other just perfectly, too. So it became a habit of mine to “chomp” happily at times, feeling the exact evenness of every single tooth in my mouth at the exact same moment. Very pleasing.
Come middle school, I was informed that I technically had an underbite — apparently your front teeth aren’t SUPPOSED to bite down and hit perfectly on their edges like that. They also wanted to close up some of the giant gaps. I did NOT want braces. I had magical thinking at that age, and I did things that I really, really thought would somehow, just maybe, hopefully, change the course of things, but no. I had to have braces.
So I had braces. I didn’t mind braces. I didn’t mind brushing and cleaning them carefully. I didn’t care about them looking funny or whatever Hollywood claims. I always chose the same colors as my pony’s blanket and tack, so we’d match. (Only looking back 10 years later did I realize the black banded teeth looked like I was missing bunches of teeth when I opened my mouth. Whatever.) I didn’t care. I didn’t care if I had braces for fifty years.
But they came off. They held up a mirror to my face and had me smile and were all excited like I was going to love the new look. I HATED it. My teeth felt slimy and weird and I didn’t like the way my teeth looked.
First of all, without my permission, my orthodontist decided to pull my 2 upper front teeth downward, to make them be larger in my mouth. I asked him why he did that, and he said aesthetics. FUCK. But…I can’t say FU even now because he is dead, rest in peace, and he was a great person and the entire community loved him and still loves him and he died horrifically.
But did he ask for my PERMISSION to make my two front teeth look like bucked rodent teeth? No.
He did, at least, ask for permission to fill in my remaining gaps (I have small teeth) with filling stuff. For aesthetics. I said no. And he didn’t do it.
But here’s the part that was the worst of all, for me. He told me he was giving me clear retainers to wear at night and then I wouldn’t have to wear anything during the day. They were all the style. Super popular. I would love them. I TOLD HIM I DID NOT WANT THAT OPTION. I WANTED THE ATTACHED RETAINERS EVEN THOUGH IT MEANT I’D HAVE TO CONTINUE TO CLEAN VERY CAREFUL AROUND THEM FOR ALL OF THE YEARS THEY’D BE ON MY TEETH. He said no. These clear ones are the popular ones, you will love them. Everybody is wearing these.
*** For me, the fact that I even told him what I wanted is astounding. I had extremely poor social skills back then and never spoke up or told people what I wanted. But yet I did, because I knew there was no chance in hell I’d remember a retainer at night and I wanted the permanent option. I asked; I was declined.
- I gave it my fucking best shot. I washed the shit out of that retainer. I soaked it in the solution. I brushed it. I wore it every night for years… Sort of. I fucking SPIT IT OUT IN MY SLEEP EVERY NIGHT. I would wake up and my retainer would be under my shoulder. Once I even found it by my feet. How is that even possible…? Sometimes it was hard to even locate and would have fallen between the bed and the headboard. Hopeless.
- So I tried to wear it during the day. But because of my OCD, I couldn’t put it back into my mouth unless I had brushed my teeth and brushed the retainer again first. And with only 7 minutes between classes and after-school mandatory if you receive 2 tardies, that was out of the question. So I could basically wear it for a couple of hours a day tops. Not long enough.
- The way he had pulled my front teeth together, it turned out that it messed with the way I spoke. I had to rework my tongue for a lot of words and I NEVER could figure out how to make the “S” sound without this weird airy hissing to it. I tried putting my tongue to a space between different teeth. I mean, I tried all kinds of things and couldn’t get my S’s to sound right. Also, I could no longer bite into/chomp off a piece of bread!
So, college years. Kind of ended the wearing of the retainer altogether. Probably it was just hard enough carrying all my stuff to the public restrooms but soaking my retainer too, and all that, whatever it was, it didn’t happen.
Let’s cut to the point. I bite down now, and my teeth are not even. I cannot tell you how much this bothers me. The pressure on the right side of my jaw and the left side of my jaw are different. It hits more on the right side than the left. And, ever since the braces came off, my top and bottom teeth hit in a horrible way. When I bite down, the bottom teeth hit the inside of my upper teeth. Apparently this is “normal” for a human bite, but it hurts like hell! My upper teeth actually get sore from it! That’s where the majority of the pressure is when I bite down.
But for so many years, any time it came into my head, I felt SO MUCH ANGER. SO much anger. I cannot even express it. Because this is my mouth and I’m biting all day long and it’s just not right. My teeth didn’t stay together, obviously, because I did not follow the correct procedure with the clear, night retainer. So all that money of my parents’, just wasted. Down the toilet. And my front teeth are huge compared to the rest of my teeth because of his choice and I’m terribly self-conscious of them. I feel ugly 100% of the time because of them. (I told this to someone once and they responded, “Yeah, I’ve always wondered why your front teeth are so much bigger than the rest of your teeth.” See, I’m not imagining things.)
But the loop was, all of this extreme feeling coming up and then INSTANTLY extreme guilt, fear. Fear that I was hurting him somehow. Because he is deceased and fear of thinking ill of the dead. Crying and angry and crying and angry and so ashamed of myself just on and on. This came up probably daily. I would try so hard to forgive him. I can’t blame him, he’s dead now. And he was SUCH a nice person. And everybody knows it, he was genuinely a nice person, made a huge difference in the community. BUT I TOLD HIM I wanted the other option, forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. There’s nothing I can do about it now.
The thought of it could come up literally any time day or night. Because it’s any time I bite down OR any time I see a photo that shows my teeth OR a mirror. Or just smile at someone and feel like my giant teeth are sticking out for them. And then it would be this horrible loop I couldn’t break out of. And I would HATE myself SO MUCH for feeling anything ill toward a kind, dead man. I’d be scared of it and anxious. And then just one thought would come in and I’d be angry again, and then be so afraid to be angry, and so guilty and so afraid of my thoughts, and wish so much that it would stop coming up. In some ways, I think I felt like I was dooming him or harming him or his still-living family somehow, by having negative thoughts about him.
Anyway, this is another intrusive thought that’s left me since the just-before-divorce time period. I swear that time period changed my brain. OF COURSE I think of my teeth still — all the time — how could I not? My upper front teeth literally HURT because that’s where the majority of pressure goes when I bite down. But the anxiety about it is gone. The fear of the thoughts is gone. The fear of hurting a dead man is gone. I still feel guilty, like I wish I hadn’t had such angry thoughts against him, but maybe he’d understand that I’m just and have always been very sensitive to physical issues.
I talked with a dentist about the uneven pressure of my bite about two years ago. He could see there’s a touch of unevenness but not much. He let me visit an orthodontist. I did a poor job explaining, since I didn’t know how to put my biggest concerns into words, but they did x-rays or whatever and said it looked like however my teeth are right now, as long as they don’t shift too much more, they should be fine. I was a little devastated. I want braces again. I want my front teeth to no longer face away from each other the way they’ve shifted. I want to get the permanent retainer this time. I want the bite to be pain free and maaaaybe… evenly distributed (but that’s too much to ask for).
I should just hire an equine dentist. My last vet did a great job “floating” (grinding even) my pony’s bite.