Biting into a plate of food, I suddenly feel a strange snap inside my mouth. I place my finger on a tooth and abruptly it falls out. I make my way across my gums and, one by one, teeth crumble. I panic as I frantically try piecing together the white porcelain shards in my palm. I suddenly wake up from this nightmare.
A reoccurring dream of mine, I ponder its possible meaning. By this weekend, its significance is painfully clear.
On Saturday morning, I feel an incredible pain in my molar—a throbbing menace that moves through my sinuses, head and ears. Monday morning, the tooth/headache is unbearable. By Tuesday morning, I am dialing dentists, desperately trying to book an appointment.
The final diagnosis: tooth decay, two root canals.
Bedridden for several days, I am fuming over the astronomical dental bill, frustrated that the meds aren’t working, sad that I can’t be with my daughter. More so, I feel guilt.
These root canals are completely preventable. Yes, I admit, I am a sugar addict. I also hate going to the dentist. I put off important tasks. But these are simply symptoms of a larger, underlying ailment.
Dreams of teeth falling out are quite common. Some dream interpreters believe teeth represent one’s attractiveness, beauty and self-confidence. Caring about how we appear is apparently quite normal and creates a certain amount of anxiety.
But what happens when the pursuit of perfection becomes an compulsion that rots you from the inside out? When you chronically coat your teeth with high-calorie, high-carbohydrate foods and then bath them in hydrochloric stomach acid? When you yet again must confront the unimaginable damage of self-inflicted abuse.
As I work towards rebuilding my teeth, I am reminded of a painful past, battling a very personal, very shameful body image problem. Sad little shards of insecurity and self-hatred that I now hold in the palm of my hand. Though I’ve come to treat my harmful habits, I still pay an enormous price for my actions, which I hope to one day settle. But that’s ok, ’cause I am worth every penny.