Further adventures in dental hell

Hey, the GOOD news is that I don’t have any cavities! That’s due to my patented method of brushing often, never flossing, and having good genes. (I should totally write a book. “You Too Can Have Pretty Strong Teeth, Unless You Don’t, In Which Case You Can Suck It, But Hopefully Not Before You Buy This Book!”)

Let’s review: I do not like the dentist, Sam-I-Am. After a long dental care hiatus, my return to the dentist was somewhat traumatic, you may remember. But I soldiered on! I kept up with it! Even when I started having cavities and other problems! I’m like a battered woman who’s CONVINCED that this time, he’s changed. I keep giving the dentist ONE MORE CHANCE and it never ends well, but I just never learn.

You may think I’m exaggerating, but let me put it to you this way: I spent two hours at the dentist yesterday, and THEN I had to make an appointment for a cleaning.

Oh, I was SUPPOSED to have the cleaning yesterday, you know. But I didn’t. Because we RAN OUT OF TIME. I was there for two hours and that wasn’t enough time to do a 10-minute cleaning.

This is a new dentist, of course, because even I am not masochistic enough to drive a thousand miles every time I need my teeth cleaned. This dentist has already seen both Monkey and Chickadee, and he’s very nice and gentle and the kids adore him. I made myself an appointment with HIGH HOPES, you understand, even when they told me they’d be scheduling a 90-minute initial appointment.

So I went in, and I filled out my paperwork (really, someone please explain to me why the dentist needs to know if you experience “irregularity or other issues with the menstrual cycle?”), and instead of taking me into an exam room, the hygienist took me into the dentist’s actual office where he has a desk and everything. We sat and waited for him. Eventually he appeared, shook my hand, and thanked me for coming in.

Dr. Dentist sat himself down at his desk, glanced over my paperwork, and said—I swear I’m not making this up—“Okay, Mir. Tell me about your teeth.”

I bit back the many wise-ass responses which immediately sprang to mind. (“They like long walks on the beach, romantic comedies, and jazz.”) Instead, I floundered around while he made approving noises and nodded. “I… uhhhh… well, I have good teeth. I didn’t have my first cavity until I was in my 30s. And… ummm… well, I have these deep grooves in my molars, that’s where the cavities have all been. And I grind them, so, um, I have some gum loss and some sensitivity from that. But in general… they’re… good?”

We then made deep and meaningful conversation about my gum loss. Which is truly a sentence I never thought I’d find myself writing.

We talked about my adventures in wearing a nighttime bite guard, and after detailing how I TRIED to wear the bite guard—really, I did, but I kept waking up to find the bite guard halfway across the room and I swear I wasn’t doing it on purpose—I had to confess that I no longer do. “I really think I’ve improved, though!” I told him, full of hubris. “I mean, I rarely CATCH myself grinding anymore.”

(In case you’re wondering, if my life were a movie, it’s right THERE that the music would’ve become ominous.)

After our lovely chat about the relative merits of the Sonicare vs. the OralB, it was time to get into the Chair of Despair. Dr. Dentist came in and poked around in my mouth for a while, calling out numbers to the hygienist and assuring me that yes, indeed, my teeth are beautiful.

I really thought I was going to get off easy. Possibly because I have never actually met myself, before.

The dentist gave a little poke to this… ummm… thing… I have under my tongue. “I see you have a torus, here. That’s probably from grinding your teeth.”

I was confused. I drive a Taurus because I grind my teeth? Whaaaa…?

“Huh?” I asked, ever-articulate.

He touched the area again. “This, right here. That’s called a torus. It’s a bony growth that can result from bruxism, or teeth grinding.”

Now here’s the funny thing. I have had this weird lump in my mouth for a LONG time. So long, in fact, that I basically forget that it’s there, right? But once Dr. Dentist starts talking about it, I ran my tongue over it and thought to myself WOW, that feels a lot bigger than I remember it being. Huh.

[Not for the faint of heart: What I have is termed a torus mandibularis, though I like to think mine isn’t nearly so disgusting-looking as the picture provided, there.]

I said something about how OH YEAH, that thing there, I think it’s gotten bigger, does that matter? And Dr. Dentist assured me that no, it’s no big deal, it’s just some extra bone and rarely becomes a problem. He then finished up his examination and told me that he was going to leave me with the hygienist and she was going to take a complete set of x-rays for my file.

Remember those nasty-tasting vinyl bitewing things dentists used to use to take x-rays? They always made me gag. This dentist has a completely digital system, so instead of a tiny vinyl thing, there is a gigantic WAND covered in a condom-like plastic bag, and the film-looking piece goes inside your mouth and then the outside handle has this big attachment arm with a big plastic O-ring, which is what they use to center the x-ray machine on for aiming purposes.

Advantage: No yucky vinyl taste!

Disadvantage: Much larger, pointier device inside your mouth!

The first four or so films went off without a hitch. And then we got to the ones which required said gigantic pointy device to be wedged underneath my tongue.

Hey! Guess what’s under my tongue! Why yes, it’s my lovely little pet torus! Do you know what about tori? (See how I’m hip to the lingo, already? The plural is not toruses, because THAT would just be confusing. It’s tori.) Tori aren’t painful, because they’re just little bits of bone and they just sit there. HOWEVER, they’re covered by an incredibly THIN layer of skin, and no muscle to speak of. And if you’ve ever had pressure exerted directly on a bone, I bet you can guess what it’s like to have ye olde pointy x-ray wand wedged into your mouth such that it’s sitting directly on top of your newly-named torus.

I could tell you what it felt like, but it would involve a lot of profanity.

So the first one she did like that, I think I stopped breathing. By the time the machine went beep-BEEP I was seeing stars. I removed the wand from my mouth and the hygienist checked the computer screen. “Whoops!” she said, cheerfully. “Didn’t quite get what I wanted on that one. Let’s do it again!” She took the wand from me and began to wedge it into the same location. “Close your mouth, hon,” she urged, and as I brought my jaws together my vision started to blacken around the edges.

I opened my mouth and the wand fell out. “Hurts,” I panted. Because I’m eloquent. And was trying really hard not to throw up.

“Oh, is that rubbing on the torus, there?” she asked. I nodded. “Well let’s just try again!” she said, and it was right about there when I decided I didn’t like her anymore.

She positioned the wand and had me close my mouth, again, and I think I was whimpering, and as she moved away the wand pulled a bit and the plate inside my mouth SCRAAAAAAAAPED across the torus and I burst into tears.

Yes, I cried like a little girl at the dentist’s office.

The hygienist gave me a tissue. In return I wisely opted not to punch her in the face.

She gave me a few minutes to collect myself, then we did the rest of the x-rays which did not involve putting anything under my tongue, and then my torus and I made an appointment for an actual cleaning (you know, because all of THAT was so much fun) and went home.

Last night for dinner, I had some lukewarm soup. It was delightfully non-invasive!

By the way, Dr. Dentist wants me to bring my bite guard to my next appointment. I’m thinking I should just ask for one of those wand things. No way I’d be biting anything with one of those in my mouth. Hmph.


  1. Fran

    You don’t want to know how much we sunk into our teeth after a little trauma induced hiatus from the dentist. Anyway, the point here is I also grind my teeth but the bite guard things are really quite invasive and drive me nuts as well. My dentist ended up giving me a thin one…one that would used as a whitening tray instead of those big bulky football player types. Maybe if you asked nicely……and tell them you want them to use a plastic pick instead of metal on your teeth especially in the sensitive gum areas…and topical numbing if needed. Anything you keep the trauma at bay.

  2. Pam

    Fran’s right — I can’t even get a cleaning w/o the topical anesthesia. Any fillings — immediate nitrous order.I don’t even care that insurance won’t cover it.

    On the other hand, I had to have my first (at almost 50!) root canal last week and … took a Valium beforehand. The doctor was fantastic, and .. no pain afterward. (I did, though, get the scrips for SuperDuper Ibuprofen and Vicodin filled b/c you never know when you’ll be in other pain and need them!)

  3. Mama Bear

    I didn’t need to hear about dental devilishness. I have suffered through enough of it on my own, but must say that my new dentist has made life better, so that’s something. I was also lucky enough to find out about torus on my last dental visit. Who knew? The hygienist was kind enough to inform me that should I ever need dentures, I would have to have surgery to “scrape that extra bone away.” Just what I needed to hear with my dental anxiety, right? Guess someday, when the need for dentures arises, I’ll be a toothless Mama Bear.

  4. Lindsay

    What is it about the dentist that reduces people to tears? I have been in the same state while they carve the crap out of all my gums and spray cold water in crevices etc. Sorry to hear Mir.

  5. Aimee

    Well. I commend you for not biting the hygienist, although CLEARLY she had it coming.

  6. Kimmie

    First—my sister has completely bitten THROUGH her bite guard.

    Second—-I too gag during dental x-rays.

    Third—-I have a cleaning appt tomorrow. ICK!

  7. Carolyn E

    I just wanted my comment to be way up at the top this time. Sorry your hygenist has no clue. Wish I could send you mine. She’s careful and compassionate. Just don’t make her angry.

  8. All Adither

    Only you could make a dental appointment such a compelling read.

  9. LiteralDan

    I don\’t mind the dentist, but I agree about the vinyl thingy. I\’m gagging just thinking about it.

  10. Patricia

    Wait I have tori too! No seriously…and I just found out that this isn’t normal for everyone about a year ago — in a dentist office who is totally digital — do we go to the same dentist. He’s just around the corner from me, so it would be a hike for you…oh well.

    Yes, the condom thing HURTS because of the tori — though I’m known in my dentist office for asking for flavored condoms. Seriously, would it be that much trouble to give me something that doesn’t taste like latex?

    I’m sorry you and your dentist aren’t best buddies. I had great childhood dental experiences and firmly believe that is why I have no problems with adult dentists. I’m ever hopeful that my son is having good dental experiences.

  11. Bob

    I didn’t realize you had eskimos in your family tree. Maybe the root of your bacon fixation is an unrequited hankering for whale blubber in your genes.

  12. Heidi D.

    I shouldn’t be laughing… but I just recently started seeing a new dentist and had to go through the whole x-ray thing and I’m in for a whole lot of work in the months to come. Altough, my exprerience wasn’t as traumatizing as yours.
    Also, I get to have a wisdom tooth yanked- which just so happens to fall on my birthday. Lucky me, huh?
    I did find out, however, that the teeth I had pulled as a child (to make room for other teeth), was the real cause for me having a slight case of peridontal disease (thank you doctor… remind me to send you my therapy bill).

    Good luck with your dentist appoints., Mir. =o)

  13. Flea

    Tori Spelling?

    I went nearly 20 years after college before seeing a dentist (yes, I DID go to college at age five). Terrified that every tooth in my mouth would be rotten. Hoping it would explain my migraines. No such luck. No cavities, still having migraines. But I’ve pretty much stopped grinding. Which is great, since a dog chewed up the night guard. Grr.

  14. crockpot lady

    ick. that picture was beyond gross.

  15. Sheila

    How the heck does bone grow under your tongue as a result of grinding your teeth? Are you so forceful that it actually DISPLACES bone from your teeth? I’m a little frightened!

  16. Jann

    I have tori, too. But my dentist has never said a word about them. He has acted like they’re just something that shows up in a certain percentage of the population. I had no idea that they were caused by grinding! Now I’m all paranoid. I know I do grind a bit, but enough to produce these bone growths??? And I do know what you mean about the x-ray bite things. They can be agony. The trick is to close down slo-o-owly. I hate the cleaning (sensitivity/receding gums–again the grinding?) so much more, though, that the x-rays are minor in my opinion. And the polishing. Can’t stand it. Funny…I never used to hate the dentist as a kid…but the older I get, I just dread my visits.

  17. Deb

    Hugs to you! The dentist is the worse dr to go to. I also took a lot of years off, but thankfully it wasn’t horrible when I went back. I do still dread it though :-(

  18. amy

    I am really sorry about the dentist trauma. I also detest going and having anything done but I have been lucky. The only reason I floss is that I was told it was more about preventing gum disease later in life than anything else and apparently going to one of those gum specialists to deal with that is the.worst.thing.ever. So I am all about flossing now.

  19. donna

    I’ve been avoiding the dentist, or rather the bill.
    Hope your next appointment isn’t as painful.

  20. Law Student Hot Mama

    I feel your pain with the tooth-grinding. I had a night guard, too and I would also remove it in my sleep. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the good tooth genes – my teeth are a disaster and I LOATHE going to the dentist because each adn every time I go, I have horrible pain and part with tons of cash.

    I think I’ve sent my dentist on vacations, cruises, fancy dinners, and more! And still he brings me pain! Ungrateful bastard!

  21. Colleen

    So? What does he prefer? The Sonicare or the Oral B? I want to know without having to ACTUALLY go to the dentist.

  22. Niki

    “Okay, Mir, tell me about your teeth.” I snorted when I read that. Sounds like you’re going for a psych eval instead of a dental one. So how did this all make you feel?

  23. Amy

    I also have a torus, which I didn’t realize I had until my last dentist appt. 2 weeks ago. I just assumed everyone’s mouth was like that. They didn’t tell me it could be related to teeth-grinding (which is also a problem for me, as is the waking up with the mouth guard elsewhere).

    Although my dentist has never had a meaningful conversation with me about anything. And now I’m kinda sad.

  24. mama speak

    My mom had a torus and she was a heavy smoker so she thought she had a cancer growth; got her to quit smoking, so there’s a benefit, right?

    I have crap teeth (genetics) and regardless of how well I take care of them I ALWAYS have to have work done. I’ve never gone as long as SIX months w/out going to the denist there’s aways appt inbetween to fix all the cavities, etc..I also grind & throw my guard across the room, (but no tori for me) I’ve cracked teeth and fillings as a result. BAH!

    I’m jockying for veneers.

  25. Diana

    Note to Self: Insist dentist does something about The Princess’ grinding at next appointment. I had no idea about Tori. Doesn’t look good at all. o.O

  26. Ani

    No torus comment here but…the hormone fluctuations affect the condition of your gums. Hence why they ask about irregular cycles. Tidbits learned while whimpering during a flossing.

  27. Dawn

    UGH! I feel your pain! I went to the dentist this week too. Had a toothache in one of my molars. And yes, when the nurse/sadist made me BITE DOWN on the vinyl x-ray thing with a tooth that ached when I BREATHED too forcefully near it – I saw stars too. Then she had to do it AGAIN, because she had aimed the camera part wrong and missed the part that hurt.

    Fortunately the oral surgeon (who gave me a spiffy $900 root canal yesterday) had a digital x-ray machine so nothing pointy was shoved in there (at least until after it was all numb anyway).

    Oh and in case I haven’t grossed out everyone, my dentist had been swearing there was nothing wrong with that tooth for months – I was just grinding it. Yeah. Until the oral surgeon found infection down in my JAWBONE because it had been there so long.

    The “tell me about your teeth” is hilarious. Maybe you should talk to your teeth more often – your molars might have self-esteem issues from being stuck in the back of your mouth your whole life…

  28. Sara

    I have tori (although toruses would be my choice for the plural because it makes me laugh. what? I’m simple.) My dentist has noted them, but never said anything about them. I had no idea grinding could cause them. Yipee!! One more thing I can lay at the feet of my children. “You children are behaving so badly you’re building BONE in MY MOUTH!!”

  29. Megan

    Squick. Teeth. Can’t comment because of depth of teethal squickitude. And am wise enough not to follow links that might show pictures of the inside of someone else’s mouth. ‘Scuse me now, must do shuddering and hand shaking for a while to purge the reatus of toothful sin.

  30. Tootsie Farklepants

    If I had to choose between a pap-smear or a trip to the dentist, the gynecologist would win. every. time.

  31. Caz

    Eugh tell me about how much I hate the dentist.
    As a kid I had every orthodontic appliance known to man (I totally know what Chicky and Monkey are going through!) plus the regular cleanings etc.
    Once, when I returned from overseas I had 6 YES SIX!!! dental appointments in 2 weeks. I should have just slept over in the office.
    Now, I finally decided to get a dentist in my new city instead of going whenever I visited my parents. I figured I better get it all straightend out while I still have insurance.
    Anyway, now I have another 4! 4 dental appointments in 1 month. Good think I have insurance.

    And yes, that metal x-ray contraption hurts!

  32. E

    Oh, the dentist is my worst fear. I have been avoiding going for far too long now, mostly because I know I’ll have to give my dentist enough money that he’ll be able to pay cash for his next BMW. I’m thinking it may just be easier to have all the teeth pulled and just get dentures.

  33. Mom24

    Now I know why it’s been 20 years since I went to the dentist. (I have never admitted that before). I think I’ll make it 20 more!

  34. Cheryl

    In my 37 years my only teeth issues have been gum related, but you have now given me nightmares. I don’t have a torus or tori but I’m sure I’ll be waking up in cold sweats for the next month.

    I think I prefer discussing Palmetto bugs.

  35. Tammy

    Can somebody tell me why they can digitize dental procedures but STILL have not figured out how to put WARM water in the water sprayer? “Oh, we’ll just spray it into your cheek instead of directly on your teeth and you can swish it around.” Um, no. This. does. not. help. My cheek is not an effective water-warmer-upper.

    Thanks Mir for giving us an outlet to share our dental nightmares!

  36. Susan

    I just changed my mind about going to the dentist after a 4 year sabbatical. I’ll wait until… you know. Whenever.

  37. Shalet

    No tori here but I do grind my teeth. I opted not to pay $800.00 of non-insurance covered expense for a mouth guard I knew I wouldn’t wear. Instead I watch the tops of my teeth pop off at the gum line. Fun stuff. Fun fun stuff.

  38. mike golch

    loss for words.

  39. Sue

    I had a mental picture of a tiny Tori Spelling sitting under your tongue. But then I clicked on the link. Ewww. (Actually, I’m not sure which is worse.)

    All my kids grind their teeth. I must really stress them out. Now I’m kinda alarmed.

  40. sophie

    I have tori as well, and I have never been told they were from grinding, which I don’t think I do.
    My mother had them about as bad as the photo, and I always thought they were something I inherited that I like less than my eyes.
    Sorry you had such a bad experience. I have a fair amount of dental avoidance myself.

  41. Pave.Gurl

    I have all manner of lovely additive accoutremant from my bruxing, which resulted from excessive clenching. My gumlines have lovely protrusions and I have biteguards.

    Yes, I said “biteguards” (plural even!) because I keep one in my suitcase so I don’t forget to pack it. This is very important ‘cos I found out about my bruxing when I realised my mouth hurt so badly I hadn’t eaten actual food (other than grits and broth) in about 3 months.

    I had a fancy-pants dentist-made one (to the tune of $500!), but I chewed through it in 18 months and woke up one morning with six pieces of dental acrylic in my mouth (not fun or pleasant, for the uninitiated). Now I just get those cheapos from the neighbourhood big box ($30)… but I have to get new ones every three months.

    On the other hand, you can count me in the ranks of the 30+ with zero cavities.

  42. Erin

    So that thing under my tongue is called a torus? I might have to bring this up to my dentist when I see him next month.

    I’m sure it will be just as much fun as my last visit, where I found out that my front tooth was reabsorbing and I needed a root canal. In the next few weeks. Or all of my teeth would fall out and I’d look like a real redneck.

    What caused this? Bumping teeth with a boy.

    I have the best luck.

  43. Laura

    I have tori, and they are just as pretty as the picture you provided. However, most people don’t get to know me well enough to know they are there. I hate hate HATED those bite-wing x-rays and never knew why it was so painful until my orthodontist explained to me that not everybody has those bony bumps in their mouth. Bastard.

    Anyway, I just refer to them as my extra bone, and I think people find that intriguing, perhaps alluring.

  44. Beth

    @Tammy: They’ve figured out how to get the warm water, they just don’t want to do it. Cold water comes straight out of the tap. Warm water has to be heated… aka: $$ ;-)

    @Mir: hugs and sympathy for your g’awful trip. A little talk with the hygienist might be in order?

    I guess I’m one of the few here; lots of ortho work when I was a kid, but I like the dentist I grew up with and I’m not scared of them. Matter of fact, I like the feeling of squeaky clean teeth.

    I’m weird! But I knew that ;-)

  45. Daisy

    “They like long walks on the beach, romantic comedies, and jazz.” Oh, dear. If your teeth met my teeth in college, they’d probably be married.

  46. Nic

    Oral B? Sonicare? Inquiring minds want to know!

  47. Chuck

    I’m in a dental HMO plan right now and I truly hate it. I’m on my second dentist in this plan, and I’ll probably be switching dentists again after I get a cleaning since the current one gave me an exam that took all of 30 seconds before determining I needed some expensive work done (not the same work the last dentist recommended, either.) I may be switching to traditional dental coverage next year even if the benefits are less in order to find a dentist that actually does a thorough job.

  48. Brigitte

    Our local dental plans are so useless, it costs just as much as just paying for the appointments out-of-pocket!

    I’ve been avoiding my old dentist due to issues, and it’s been a few years. I probably have about 20 cavities in there now, thus increasing my fear of finding a new dentist.

  49. tori

    Wait, so I’m in your mouth? (Kidding) I never heard of that thing before, so I am going to count reading your blog today as school type time and not wasting time reading blogs.

    Sorry the dentist was so yucky! I don’t hate going but it sure is not on my list of top ways to spend time.

  50. carson

    My mother’s tori nearly met in the middle. She was actually quite proud of them. (Not nearly as proud as I am that I beat my sister to this comment, though.)

  51. Shannon

    When I had my pap smear on Tuesday, I literally told my OB that paps did not bother me, and that I would rather have 10 paps than have to go to the dentist.

    Reading this post…I think I would probably rather have about 20 if it got me out of a dental visit.

  52. Cathy

    Sonicare. I, too, have tori (plural?) top and bottom jaws, both sides, outer portion of my jaw. On top of that, I have a very small mouth. I always thought everyone had these lovely bony growths and wondered why dental x-rays and exams hurt so darn much. Did not find out until last year that the tori were not the norm and were the result of a bad bite and grinding my teeth. I amazingly have awesome teeth (almost 40 and no cavities) but the downside is I have gum problems out the wazoo! I think the dentist is finally putting two and two together and linking the the gum problems to the bite issue. I have felt like a liar all this time when I swore that I brush twice a day, use Listerine like it is going out of style, and floss every night. I have suffered major bone loss in my jaw because of grinding my teeth and am now going to purchase an obscenely expensive mouth jaw after my next deep cleaning/root planing. I am terrified of the dentist and would not only rather go to the OB-Gyn, I would rather give birth than have more dental work!!! That being said, I am not ready to start losing teeth at this age. I already have receding gums and literally am starting to look “long in the tooth”.

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