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My Mouth is the Window of My Soul?

by Colette Moyra

To be honest, I've always had problems with discipline, or, rather, with routine.

Attention Deficit Disorder or rebellion, perhaps? Now, as an adult, I am able to observe the consequences of decisions that I have made throughout my life, some of them, anyway.

It is typical and entirely normal that in childhood, parents, in my case my mother, try to guide us on the right path for healthy growth, with the least amount of problems, to free us from the obstacles of which they have become aware through their greater experience.

Following her version of this parental impulse, my mother insisted that she brush my teeth. That didn't go very well. The consequences of her decision was that I developed tooth decay. As a result, I suffered the loss of two permanent teeth at a very young age.

This experience of extracting what was left of these rotten teeth was scary. At that epoch dental technology was not so advanced, at least not here in Mexico. The treatments were "spartan," you might say. My trauma that day was such that I remember little. I've blocked it almost completely.

I vaguely remember the big green eyes that protruded between the dentist's cap and mask. I remember how they looked at me without any compassion. I felt that they looked at me as if to chastise my soul and teach me a lesson.

I didn't know what to expect, the first thing was the huge metal syringe for anesthesia. The dentist placed her hand on my chest to immobilize me, saying, "Open your mouth and don't move." My fear increased. It was such a bad experience that I still have a terror of injections, but that's another story.

With the surgical light shining directly into my eyes, I had no opportunity to refuse the needle. I felt the sting and how slowly the liquid entered me. After this eternity I breathed deeply, feeling relief, thinking that this would be the worst of it. But no, this had been the easy part. The sensation of the anesthesia made me feel as if the cheek was inflated. I felt my lips sleepy and tingling.

The dentist started her work. At first I didn't feel anything. She had already warned me that if it hurt, I was to raise my hand so that she would notice and stop. As she proceeded, the pain began and got worse. My agony was infernal. I felt it to my soul. My reaction was to throw her hand away from my mouth. I got angry and managed in a mumbling tone to tell her that I no longer wanted to continue.

"No, honey," she told me indifferently, "Barely half of one of the molars came out, I have to remove the other half.""

What? The tooth had broken, and only a part came out. I was in a nightmare.

The archaic torture continued. I'll spare you the details. The recovery afterwards was also very painful. Thanks to this, I decided never to go back to the dentist. A decision that, of course, has had its consequences.

Today, 25 years later, because of that rebellion, or rather cowardice, my teeth are giving signs that I need help. With life's vicissitude, so much to do and my congenital self-sabotage, I've done everything I can to avoid this moment. "Tomorrow" is my favorite motto.

Not long ago and by a twist of fate, I met a man, Rafael. He and I immediately developed a fluid rapport. I found him to be an honest, direct person. I felt comfortable, confident with him as if we knew each other from past lives, a chemistry that is not found on a daily basis.

At one point in our conversation he revealed that he was a dentist, specializing in endodontics and orthodontics, with an office in Celaya and a new practice here in San Miguel. I had a chill. I think he saw me shudder. It was at once terrifying and a sign from the Universe. You were looking for someone not to help you, right? I thought to myself. Now is the time, I honestly concluded.

I took advantage of the flow of the talk and told him about my childhood traumas. He, very empathetic, understood me and offered to help me, "both in my dental and my mental health," he kindly joked.

I felt confident and could breathe easy. My time has come to heal those psychological wounds and at the same time put in order the chaos that I have in my mouth.

I tried to sabotage our first appointment. The night before I could not sleep well, dreaming that I did not wake up on time. In reality, I arrived a little before the agreed time and sat down on a bench to gain courage. Fifteen minutes before I had been planning a pretext for not showing up. I fortified my resolve to attend by remembering that this visit was only to review my case. There would be no syringes or machines with the sound of torture. LET'S GO, COURAGEOUS! You can!!! I told myself.

Sweating, cold and shivering as I was, Dr. Rafael's assistant noticed my nervousness. When filling out the intake forms I forgot to list me name. Finished with these preliminaries, I moved on to the horror chamber.

I flashed back to my trauma when I saw the dental chair and lamp. I hesitated. Dr. Rafael, having noticed my nervousness, pulled me out of my reverie by calmly explaining his hygienic protocols. Now with the COVID pandemic he is very strict. Everything is sterilized before the patient enters and everything is covered, even the chair with plastic that is thrown away after each visit. That way there is no danger of contamination, he told me.

I observed that everything was perfectly ordered and cared for down to the smallest detail. He invited me to sit on the chair. It was like getting back in the saddle after falling off the horse. It was too late to run away, so let go and got carried away.

Dr. Rafael's patience helped me a lot. I felt like a little girl again. As if starting over. This time, I decided to trust him, and that nothing bad would happen to me.

Dr. Rafael gave me a simple review, dictating to his assistant piece by piece each part of the problem that was my mouth. I felt ashamed at the length of his dictation. All that? I thought, What a mess.

The next step was X-rays. In real time, in front of me, on a huge screen, my teeth were appearing. Dr. Rafael, now in more depth, told me about the procedures I needed. His explanations were so clear and obvious that I had no opportunity to even think about continuing to postpone the treatment.

A couple of teeth that need root canal treatment must be urgently repaired so as not to run the risk of losing them. "Losing them?" I asked with panic in my eyes

"You are on time," the doctor told me, calming me down, "but we have to start as soon as possible.""

"Is there any natural remedy that I can apply?" I ventured.

"Natural remedies are preventive, but with such profound damage there is no other alternative now," Dr. Rafael answered me.

I felt my very typical anxiety. Even the pang of a migraine was making its appearance. I felt cornered. What do I do? I thought.

It seems that Dr. Rafael heard my thoughts. He suggested, "What do you think if we start with a cleaning? So you gain confidence, then we progress little by little with some cavities. That treatment is not so invasive. It does not generate so much anxiety. And if it's okay with you, we will leave the most complex for last. The only thing I could do was nod my head, and that only after a great sigh of released anguish.

I greatly appreciated the empathy of Dr. Rafael. I was able to take the first step of my recovery thanks to him. The next appointment is scheduled. I feel confident, and I know that I will be able to overcome this challenge.

Walking home in silence, I reflected on the consequences of my traumas and the fears that I developed in childhood. Would this healing of my teeth lead to a healing of my soul?

To be continued.


Endodontics with Microscope
Libramiento J. Manuel Zavala 160, internal 207
Plaza del Ángel, next to Hospital La Joya
415 688 4887 / 415 137 5593

Dr. Rafael is:
• a member of the Mexican Association of Endodontics
• a member of the College of Endodontists of Guanajuato
• a member of the Latin American Society of Endodontics
• a teacher at the University Continente Americano
• a lecturer

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Colette Morya is a poet and traveler-writer now residing in San Miguel where she is learning about historical and anthropological culture through her "urban tourism."

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