Listening to my lungs in the dentist’s chair

Two things are true for me: I’m grateful for health care and I’m afraid of visiting the dentist. My appreciation for medical professionals doesn’t alleviate the anxiety I feel when a stranger pokes around in my mouth with sharp metal objects.

The other day I went to the dentist for the first time in a while. I wanted to get my teeth checked out since this is my last year on my mom’s insurance.

As part of the examination, the dentist jabbed a needle* down between my tooth and gum. I recoiled from the sensation of a raw nerve being stabbed. I shrank in the chair as the remainder of my mouth was skewered, tooth by tooth.

*that’s what it felt like anyway!

Finally the dentist stood back and announced: “there’s extreme gum recession. You have the gums of an 80-year-old.”

I felt devastated. Really? I brush and floss every night. I always swish my mouth with water after I eat sweets because I’m so paranoid of getting cavities from residual sugar. I don’t smoke, well, I did, but only for one year. I guess that did it, huh? My gums just gave up and pulled away from my teeth.

“You’re not gonna like this,” said the dental hygienist, “but I need to clean the sensitive teeth especially well.” A mask and face shield could not hide the sympathy in her eyes.

I smiled and said okay. My stomach felt squished yet stretched, like a rubber band ball.

The hygienist turned on a machine that hissed loudly over the 80’s Pandora radio station. I braced myself for the next jolt of pain as she started scrubbing away.

While I stared at the ceiling, my jaw aching as I strained to keep my mouth wide open, I realized every single muscle in my body was flexed. Maybe being so tense was adding to my misery.

I knew I couldn’t force myself to relax. But I decided this would be a good time to meditate.

There are as many ways to describe mediation as there are people who practice it. To me, mediation is like a mental workout. It’s like holding a plank and also like reaching for my toes in a forward bend. Except instead of my abs getting stronger, I am building my focus. And instead of my hamstrings getting more flexible, I’m increasing my awareness.

Mental strength is focus and mental flexibility is awareness.

The mind is strengthened when I practice holding my attention on one thing. And the mind becomes more flexible when I keep returning my attention back to the point of focus, no matter how many times I am distracted.

I meditate by paying attention to my breaths. How the air feels in my nose, in my lungs, in my stomach. Since I haven’t been practicing for very long, I still get sidetracked by a thought every 0.2 seconds. That’s alright. I try to bring my attention back to my breath every 0.3 seconds. My flexibility is being tested more than my strength right now.

When I listened to my breaths instead of the sound of tools scraping my teeth, the rest of my body slowly uncurled itself. I still winced from pain at times, but the moments in between were less horrible.

I left the dentist with clean teeth and a (relatively) calm mind and body. If you go to the dentist and feel anxious, I recommend trying meditation while you’re sitting there. And if you’re looking for a sign to quit smoking, let my unhappy gums be your motivation.

18 thoughts on “Listening to my lungs in the dentist’s chair

  1. Most likely your gums receded from not getting a thorough cleaning in awhile. Unlike you, the masochist in me loves a good bleeding gums jab and poke from the hygienist. The only thing I don’t like is the odor when a drill bits enamel. Thankfully I don’t often experience the drill. 51 and still have 4 baby teeth and 4 wisdom teeth.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow what an experience my friend πŸ’™πŸ’™. I have not been to the dentist much — many of the times I went was decades ago when I was a very young kid and had one period of time when I had suffered tooth decay and had to end up in the hospital and had to come back for follow up appointments πŸ˜‚, but since then, I had not been at a dental clinic for decades after that.

    Only about as recently as in 2019 I had gone, just once, for a check-up as well but my time in the dental department had not been much, so I didn’t experience alot of the things I have heard about since much of my issues revolved around typical generic things, but I can tell that for your personal experience was one filled with lots of anxiety and nervousness. I am glad to see that you came-up with ways to help you endure the situation and that you came out of it with much more improved dental health and a calmer mind and body πŸ˜πŸ™πŸ™Œ.

    ———

    “There are as many ways to describe mediation as there are people who practice it. To me, mediation is like a mental workout. It’s like holding a plank and also like reaching for my toes in a forward bend. Except instead of my abs getting stronger, I am building my focus. And instead of my hamstrings getting more flexible, I’m increasing my awareness.

    Mental strength is focus and mental flexibility is awareness.

    The mind is strengthened when I practice holding my attention on one thing. And the mind becomes more flexible when I keep returning my attention back to the point of focus, no matter how many times I am distracted.”

    — This was a very creative way of expressing your definition of Mediation πŸ‘πŸ’―

    ———

    “And if you’re looking for a sign to quit smoking, let my unhappy gums be your motivation”

    — Hahaha that’s a great way of putting your advice πŸ‘ŒπŸ’―πŸ’•

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your valuable thoughts!!! I really appreciate what you have to say. And, that’s so awful you had to suffer the tooth decay when you were a kid😒 Tooth pain is in a league of its own… Glad it’s better for you now! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are welcome Lizi πŸ’™πŸ’™. And it was very lovely to read your kind and considerate comments they are very uplifting πŸ’•πŸ˜.

        Yeah I was reminded of that situation by my mom because I did not remember it; we were having a conversation about health-related topics etc — I was very young when it happened lol. My baby-tooth were affected and I can’t recall being in any pain, but it seems as if they took action before conditions got more advanced.

        You are definitely right that tooth pain is in a league of it’s own because I use to feel a very awful sensation whenever I would drink or eat cold/hot things and it seemed like it was 2 specific teeth that were the culprits πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚. The sensation was not pleasant.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s good you weren’t in too much pain as a kid and that you were taken care of before the problems got worse. That’s why I’m always grateful for healthcare, especially preventative health care.

          OH YEA I do have that temperature sensitivity on my teeth πŸ™ƒFor this reason I avoid eating very cold things. If I see somebody bite into something frozen like an ice cream it makes me cringe Lol

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Thanks, that’s so true and little did I know it back then hahaa. I agree with you totally πŸ‘πŸ’―πŸ˜‚, healthcare is top-priority and the best kind of care you can ever give yourself is trying to avoid getting certain things in the first place especially when it comes to oral issues which, as you so rightly pointed out, are some of the worst πŸ˜‚

          I definitely know what you are talking about when you say that you cringe when you see somebody bite into something frozen 🀣🀣; it’s one of the worst agonizing sensations ever lol. Thankfully it’s one dental issue that can heal on it’s own if you work on it from early haha

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Yes! What’s that phrase, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I am hoping to have some healing happen as I take better care of myself.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Haha, true. That is a very interesting a pertinent saying; thanks for enlightening me πŸ’―πŸ‘Œ.

          Having hope is a great start — I believe that healing for you is inevitable, as long as you stay focused and resist temptations my friend πŸ™πŸ’ž .

          Liked by 1 person

        5. Thank you for the good thoughts 😁 I feel inspired to be my healthiest self forsure!

          Like

        6. No problem, it’s the least I can do Lizi πŸ‘πŸ˜‚. I am glad to hear that you are inspired and will stop at nothing to be your healthiest — everything we do benefits from good health πŸ’―πŸŒΉπŸ˜‡

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! As a kid I used to like going to the dentist. I had parents who raised us to brush our teeth twice a day and never had any issues in the dental office as we only went for routine checkups and teeth cleaning. But that changed once I had my wisdom teeth pulled, which was a pretty traumatic experience. Luckily, I haven’t had to go much anymore and I hope it stays that way. :D

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you β™‘
      Well, I can’t think of anything more traumatic for your mouth than getting teeth pulled out…yikes! That is NOT a fun trip to the dentist. Hopefully you have nothing but routine cleanings from here on out 😁

      Liked by 1 person

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