This is a blog post I wrote almost three years ago on my first blog, but I am sharing it here again. The reasons for the re-share are after the post.
First the photo, then the story.
While I normally strive for humor, I’m going to turn serious. This photo looks like a fairly normal studio portrait, but there’s something in it that I’ve never done before.
If you were born with good teeth, then how I envy you! A family birth defect resulted in me being born without six (that is not a typo) permanent teeth. My back molars on the top and bottom, and the two front eyeteeth. All gone. I had the baby teeth, but never the permanent. Why didn’t my mother put me in braces? Because my mother was a single mother who struggled to support the two of us on a low paycheck. Dentist after dentist was constantly quoting prices we couldn’t handle. Then we started finding dentists that didn’t even give a damn, and worse . . . I gave up. I didn’t care for my teeth as I should.
Fast forward to shortly after my twenty-third birthday. By this point, my teeth are gapped, broken, worn, stained, and an utter humiliation to me. I’m convinced that people see nothing but my horrid teeth, and I haven’t smiled in a photograph since I was twelve. Self-confidence and I . . . we’re only now getting to know each other. At that point, I had confidence in my assorted skills, but never my looks.
Then a miracle happened. I found Madison Square Dental.
I had to go in. A tooth had broken and I had no choice. I went to that first appointment expecting the same old, same old. But . . . the dentists, the assistants, and even the office staff . . . from the beginning, they told me they could help me, that I didn’t have to be stuck in this horror forever. And I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have to cringe when I smiled.
Happy ever after? Not for six years. The broken tooth was too far gone to be saved and had to be pulled. Nearly every tooth in my mouth received a crown. I went through nine root canals and two crown lengthenings. All of this work was compounded by the fact that I have a high resistance to numbing agents, and they wear off fast. And every time one problem was fixed, another came up. Through it all, Madison tried to refer me to an orthodontist and a prothesdontist for the heavier duty work I needed. The story was same. My insurance considered it cosmetic, and wouldn’t pay a dime. I don’t have $10,000 to $50,000. I began to simply pray to not be in dentures by my thirtieth birthday. In my darkest times, I was sure I would be.
Then, shockingly, a crown came out and I had to go in quick to get it cemented back in. (I have never lost a temporary let alone a permanent!) The only doctor who could see me was [name redacted]. I hadn’t met him before, but I’ve yet to meet someone at Madison I didn’t like, so I went on in.
He put the crown back in, then looked at my teeth, then looked at my charts and extensive history. He asked me, “Are they going to do anything about the gaps?” I said I didn’t know, that they were more concerned (rightfully) with my bite and structural integrity and lingering decay. He looked again, sat back, looked me in the eye and said, “I can take care of all of it.” Then he said (and I will never forget this), “You deserve a beautiful smile.”
I didn’t get my hopes up yet. I’d been there before. They (him and the head dentist) worked out a plan for me involving replacing nearly every tooth on the top of my mouth with crowns and bridging in what was missing. I chewed my nails till the cost estimate came in. When it did . . . it was well within budget. I just . . . stood there. I couldn’t believe that I had a smile in my reach. I called Madison and asked when we could start.
First, there was a last baby tooth to be pulled. (Don’t ask.) After that healed, I went in for a four-hour marathon of drilling and shaping. When I walked out, I was in pain, but I had a temporary bridge that gave me a taste of what my teeth might look like. I cried the whole way home, and it was that bridge you saw in my earlier Project photos. Today, I went in for the permanents to be delivered. And it wasn’t easy either! Sparing you the gory part, let’s just say my gums were in the way of some of the crowns. But it’s done.
I looked in a mirror, and I smiled. I can’t stop smiling, and I’m happy to be able to smile. More than that, the worst is behind me now. I can eat again. So many things were simply beyond my reach because of my teeth. I can LIVE my life without shame or pain.
If I’ve learned anything from this ordeal, it’s that guardian angels don’t always have wings.
Sometimes they wear a white lab coat.
*****END ORIGINAL POST*****
On Monday, August 4, 2014, I had to return to Madison Dental to have my teeth looked at. One of the few teeth left in my mouth without a crown has decided to fall apart. It needs a root canal and crown (and two others of the last-to-be-crowned will also be crowned). While I was there, I found out something that has gutted me: my guardian angel has become a real angel now. He passed away peacefully in his sleep from a heart attack not very long ago. He truly, literally, saved my sanity and my life. I can’t even begin to describe how much has changed since I wrote that original post. He didn’t give up on me. He made a miracle happen. And . . . he was proud of it. The staff told me that he considered doing my teeth to be the highlight of his career.
To my guardian angel . . . thank you. Thank you for being on this planet long enough to save me. I will never, EVER forget you.