By Mir
September 6, 2005

It was all going along so well. I had a lovely talk with my friendly neighborhood Unemployment Adjudication… ummm… Guy (Representative?), covering such fascinating topics as how to properly report my freelance earnings–as I have doubled my contracts since yesterday (that’s what’s cool about having one contract… once you have TWO contracts, you’ve got twice as many!)–and how my former employer has decided to give me the rest of the money they sort of forgot to finish paying me before. All in all, not a bad start to the day, you know?

I was feeling good. Empowered! Hopeful! Less broke! Practically giddy!

Midway through the day I brushed my very beautiful teeth extra carefully, and flossed–yes, FLOSSED–with reverence. I topped it all off with a hearty swish of the flouride rinse, and headed out to have my teeth cleaned.

You may remember that I only started going to the dentist regularly again fairly recently. Despite being told I have gum loss, despite having my first two cavities ever filled, somehow these people managed to convince me to keep coming back. I think it’s the festive scrubs that the hygienists wear. It’s impossible to be unhappy in a place where everyone is clad in large, smiling molars doing things like running around with giant toothbrushes.

I never did go to the periodontist for a consult like I was supposed to. Oops! (I heard they just wear normal clothes there. Forget it.) But I’ve been to my regular cleanings and every time I’m told how gorgeous my teeth are and what a good job I’m doing taking care of my smile.

Personally, I think my teeth are a little frightening. I have BIG teeth. And LOTS of them. I mean, no more than the usual amount, I suppose. But they SEEM really plentiful. Let’s put it this way: I was really excited when Julia Roberts became popular, because she’s got even bigger teeth than I do. The point is that I’m a bit self-conscious about my teeth, and perhaps part of the reason I don’t mind going to the dentist is because they always ooh and aah over my teeth and for half an hour I feel a little less like Mr. Ed.

I arrived; the hygienist took me back to the big chair covered in a plastic bag; as I tried to arrange myself in such a way as to minimize the crinkling and sticking of plastic to bare skin, she announced that I was due for x-rays. Goody! She arranged the little films in my mouth one at a time, and on the third one I accidentally bit her. Well, her gloved fingertip. Probably I didn’t even catch any of her finger, but we had an awkward moment where her glove stretched and then I opened my jaw and her glove snapped out and I tried to say “I’m sorry” but I still had a film in my mouth so it came out like “mswra” instead.

We had a laugh about it, afterwards. Hahaha! I bit you! Oh, I’ve had worse, she assured me. You were gentle! Hahaha! The dentist is FUN!

Then she started with those evil pointy things. Scraping my teeth and poking at them and generally making me want to flip off that chair, swing from the blinding light above, and use the accumulated momentum to kick the instruments out of her hand. I don’t do that, of course. I just sit there with my mouth open, willing myself not to salivate excessively, and hope it will be over soon.

“Huh,” the hygienist said. She pulled the light a little bit closer, and scraped one of my bottom teeth several times, slowly. “That’s… wow,” she murmured.

“Wha?” I asked, trying not to spit.

“Hang on,” she said, “I’m just going to look at your file for a minute. Ahhhh, I see we’ve talked about your grinding your teeth, before.”

“Uh huh…?”

“Well, I think it’s safe to say you’re still doing it. Have you been under an unusual amount of stress?”

(Well, that was even funnier than when I bit her finger.)

Turns out, I can hide the fact that I don’t floss very often. And I can pretty much get away with taking so-so care of my teeth, because I have nice strong teeth that are “highly resistant to decay” (between the hygienist and the dentist, I heard that phrase at least half a dozen times this afternoon). But I can no longer hide the fact that I clench my jaw and grind my teeth.

G’head. Ask me why.

The hygienist whipped out a mirror and held it up for me and adjusted the light just so, and showed me what she’d discovered.

Did you know that if you clench and/or grind your teeth hard enough and often enough, you can crack them? CRACK. THEM. Neither did I.

Together we admired the perfect vertical fissure she’d just found in one of my bottom incisors. I was horrified. She explained that it was a superficial crack (I shall forever after blame my proliferation of shoes on that crack, because it’s very into fashion), not a tremendous risk, although she’d not seen one before that actually ran the entire length of the tooth (as mine does), so that was definitely something to watch closely, blah blah blah; she was still talking when I shifted my gaze a little and gasped.

And then I got to point out that three teeth over (she hadn’t gotten there yet with her assortment of torture implements), I had another one cracked from top to bottom. Two cracked teeth in the last six months. That’s not really what I had in mind when I was thinking about what I might have to show for myself by now.

I may have told the hygienist that I didn’t like her anymore, and that I bit her on purpose. She seemed a little nervous while she was flossing me.

But I really wanted to bite the dentist, because he 1) made me wait forever for my consult while he chatted with the office staff about his vacation (hey buddy, congratulations on your new BOAT, but my teeth are fracturing while I’m sitting here waiting for you), 2) told me I need a custom bite plate that my insurance doesn’t cover, and 3) suggested sealants for both cracks as well as several other “deep grooves” on other teeth. The grand total for these “recommended” services is… more than I anticipate earning this month. So. Um. I thanked him for my free toothbrush and said I’d see him in six months.

(Dear Santa: I have been just as rotten as usual this year. I’m sorry. But I would still really love to have a nifty customized nighttime mouth guard so as not to end up with multiple root canals and eventually dentures before I turn 40. I promise to leave out some really good cookies for you. Hugs and kisses! Mir)

Oh well. I hear one good way to feel less toothy is to… have fewer teeth.

Hey! Know what does NOT make me clench my teeth? Monkey had his first day of kindergarten today. When Chickadee and I walked into his room to pick him up, he was bouncy and joyous and grabbed me in a big hug.

“Hey, buddy!” I planted a smooch on his cheek and leaned in to whisper in his ear. “What did you think of your first day of kindergarten?”

“It was GOOD!” He beamed. He gestured for me to lean in again and offer my ear. I did, and he stage-whispered, “I think I should come back again TOMORROW!”

That made me forget my bleeding gums for a little while.


  1. diane

    Oh, crap Mir!! I’ve been grinding my teeth since I was a child–so hard that my parents could hear me in their room next door.
    A few years ago (and by a few I mean about 7) a dentist prescribed me a bite guard. I stopped using it b/c I would wake up choking and/or gagging on it in the middle of the night.
    Now I am thinking I just really need to deal with the choking and gagging (or maybe get a better fitting one? just a thought…) or I’m going to be with you getting 1001 root canals! Yikes!

  2. ben

    I. Hate. The. Dentist.

    You aren’t helping, much.

    Oh, wait, this blog is about you? Oops….

  3. Dawn

    You BIT the hygienist? Those dogs had more of an effect on you than you realized. You’re lucky she didn’t know the routine… “I bite you! Now you bite me!”

    Bummer about the expensive dental work recommended. My dentist thinks I should get two gold crowns at $800 each. Good thinkin’ Mr. Dentist! Go play on your boat.

    Monkey is so darned CUTE! That is just priceless! I hope he feels that way about school for a very long time.

  4. Deb

    For a temporary fix, go to the drugstore and get a nightguard. It’s smaller than a sports guard but you mold it to the teeth in the same way. Pop it in boiling water, stick it between your teeth, and bite until it sets. Not quite as custom as the ones from the dentist but they do work pretty good.

  5. Karry

    I strongly recommend Deb’s suggestion, I grind my teeth and clench my jaws, particularly when I am stressed. I shattered (To bits!) three teeth in one week before I got the courage up to go to the dentist (REALLY REALLY bad experience when I was younger) – I’m lying – the courage wasn’t there – but the PAIN was. Anything, even a dentist, to stop that!

    Anyways – he told me I have TMJ and a grinding problem. Recommended a bite plate also. It does help. I haven’t shattered any more teeth anyway….

  6. big-bad-ex

    your son grinds his teeth too….you sleep like the dead so you probably never heard it.

    big bad

  7. KimberlyDi

    You opened a big-ole can of worms about Dentists. I, too, am a teeth grinder. My teeth are ground flat. My dentist even suggested that I change jobs (major stressor). Personally, going to the dentists stresses me out so isn’t that the obvious object to remove first? I was upside down in a dentist chair on 9/11 listening to the radio about the planes crashing into the world trade center. I hoped it was a hoax. I had to go back a month later for a check-up and that’s when another plane crashed in New York City. NO ONE SHOULD FLY WHEN I’M AT THE DENTIST!

  8. Northern_Girl

    I also recommend the cheap-o nightguard from the drugstore. Works great.

  9. Amy-GO

    I have TMJ too and sleep with my teeth clenched. Long ago I paid the four million dollars for the custom bite-plate which was truly unattractive AND uncomfortable! Bonus! Then I had two wisdom teeth appear from nowhere, which threw off the alignment of my teeth, which caused the exorbitant bite-plate not to fit, which caused my head to explode. Moral of the story? Buy the cheap-o bite-plate from the drugstore and save your sanity!
    Congrats to Monkey on his first day!

  10. cmhl

    chief amongst my litany of bad habits, is that I grit and grind my teeth. bad. I am a night-guard kind of a girl too, until I grind that down and have to replace it.

    I hateeeeeeeee going to the dentist..

  11. Aimee

    For biting the hygienist? You’re my hero.

  12. Rae

    Hi there! Long time teeth grinder first time poster! ;) I had a bite guard made for me at the dentist, costs about $300.00 and insurance doesn’t cover. However, at Walgreen’s, or similar drug store out your way, they are coming out with bite guards that you soak in hot water to soften, then put them on your teeth to mold themselves. Those are anywhere between 20 and 50 bucks, I think.

    I never choked on them, mainly because they were never loose enough to fall off, but when dating a new fella, let me tell ya how self conscious it makes me! ;) Oh, by the way, I”m in my early thirties, and I have to stick things in my mouth before I go to sleep! Gah! ;) But honestly, I’ve never had an issue with that, I’m a lot more worried about it than the other person is. They just appreciate that I don’t wake them up grinding my teeth. :)

  13. Theresa

    Yeah for Monkey!! Sorry to hear about the teeth! Maybe they could make you an orthotic appliance? Yeah, I know, like you want to go to bed with a hunk of acrylic in your mouth, but still…?

  14. chris

    Another tooth grinder here. Sigh, with lots of cracked teeth I finally got the courage to fix this year. Gum surgery, six caps, three root canals, and counting.

    Spending the money kills me.
    Wish I knew about those drugstore mouth guards.

  15. Sherri

    I clench my jaw and grind my teeth too. I spent about $250 for a bite guard from my dentist and it really helps (except that I find myself cheing on it before I fall asleep — oops).

    I haven’t had any cracked teeht yet, but my bottom teeth are all flat along the tops and my gums are starting to receed as a result of all the pressure from the clenching and grinding, so now I have a few super-sensitive sots where the gums used to be.

    Good times.

    I haven’t tried the bite guards from the drugstore for myself yet, but if you don’t want to fork over the dough to the dentist, it can’t hurt to try one.

    Good luck.

  16. amber

    I hate the dentist. I have had that awkward biting moment when they tell you to bite down on the film and you’re faster then they are and you get glove – or finger. I didn’t bit that hard thankfully. I too clench, since I have misaligned teeth it’s harder for me to grind, but the clenching has broken 2 teeth completely in half and cracked 2 more. I’ve had 2 root canals and am still waiting for the millionaire who will help me pay for the 4 caps I need and other general tooth upkeep. So I feel your pain :)

  17. Kym

    I too am a grinder. I tried that nightguard thing and never used it. Waste O Money. But since… I’ve had three cracked teeth and two have required crowns.

    Im considering the bite guard thing again.

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest