After three days with a toothache, I finally admitted that it would not go away on its own. My dentist’s receptionist, Christina, was her usual cheery self when I called. She’s definitely part of the dental therapy; her laugh is so infectious that one can’t help but be cheerful too – at a dentist office! But hearing my story she quickly turned sympathetic. “Oh, no! Let’s see if it was one of the teeth we were watching.” No such luck. This was something new. She efficiently maneuvered a visit for the next day.
I always loathed going to the dentist. My pre-fluoride childhood was riddled with memories of pain, high-pitched whining drills (aeaeaearingaaa), pain, the smell of burning tooth enamel and pain. Often. But in the three years I’ve been seeing Dr. Brian Kubo, I’ve had an assortment of ailments including cavities and crown replacements, yet no pain in the chair! At least so far. I’m always cautious.
After examining my aching mouth, my dentist extraordinaire pronounced those dreaded words, “ROOT CANAL.” He is a friendly low-key, gentle soul, but his decree sounded like a bullhorn blast. He explained that the tooth was fine, no cavity; just the nerve was dying. It was news to me that the nerve could die in an otherwise healthy tooth. What did I do wrong?
Back in Christina’s care, she performed her magic and found me a spot the following week. Meanwhile, I went home to nurse my sore mouth with a healthy dose of antibiotics, Tylenol, and napping. (I never miss an opportunity to nap, especially when my husband is feeling sorry for me.)
Yesterday was the day. I mentally prepared by going to yoga the evening before. Anita engaged us with a special restorative, meditative yoga session, mentioning that we all have stresses in our lives, like tooth problems. She is so thoughtful.
I resolved to mentally bring Anita into the dentist office with me, along with Marga, my hypnotherapist. Marga always had me envision walking on a beach as I went into the hypnotic state. So as I reclined in the seat and put on the sunglasses that Gemma, the dental assistant, gave me, I mentally went there. I told Dr. Kubo that I was afraid of the drill, but not the needle. He obliged my request for a good numbing and, after a while, I felt prepared and continued my self-hypnosis.
Dr. Kubo is very polite and talks very softly while working. I almost can’t be sure he is talking to me. But I turned my head, opened and closed my mouth, and moved my tongue, all automatically, while in my mind I was splashing at the edge of the ocean. I felt the warm sun on my face (the light over my head), heard distant voices on the beach (Christina talking with other patients), sensed the cool breeze on my arms (the office AC), and felt the splash of the salt spray on my face (Gemma cleaning off the work area of my tooth). In the distance, some workmen were making construction sounds, or was it the new-technology drills that Dr. Kubo used?
The beach-side walking and splashing of my self-hypnosis did the job of keeping me and my busy mind focused elsewhere. But every once in a while, I heard Anita’s caring voice. Just as she did at yoga the night before, she said, “You think you need something. You think you need a drink or food. But no, what you need is air. Breathe. Breathe deeply. Yoga is the breath.” I immediately recognized that I was barely breathing. (On the plus side, at least I wasn’t gasping or panting.) So I inhaled the sea air in long even breaths that filled my lungs. Ahh. Much better.
Later her voice crept into my consciousness again. “You can stop clenching.” And indeed, I was clenching my teeth against the prop in my mouth, clenching my eyes shut, stiffening my shoulders, and tightened myself all over. When I heard her voice, I relaxed like a puddle into the dentist chair. Again and again during the procedure, as I drifted into and out of a drowsy state at the beach, I heard Anita’s voice telling me to breathe and to stop clenching.
After two hours, the root canal was done and I had a new crown. Amazingly, the procedures had not hurt at all. The boogieman of the ROOT CANAL was a figment of my imagination fired by bad childhood memories. This is hypnosis and yoga at their best – two of my favorite transformation tools. This is also modern dentistry.
Last night, Dr. Kubo called to find out how I was doing. “I’m still at the beach,” I replied dreamily.
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