By Daisy White
I never liked going to the dentist. I never knew till I walked through my journey with Lyme disease how much I would hate it in the end. Lyme impacts all that suffer so differently. I have a friend who says, “Take a handful of confetti, throw it over a stream with a strong wind and see how it lands. That’s Lyme; different on each person.”
For me the confetti landed all through my teeth and jawbone. The good news, I can now hold a conversation with any good dentist. Lastly, I continue to learn how to be healthier daily in spite of all my obstacles…I may be healthier with Lyme than I would have been without it.
“Are all those your x-rays, Miss White?” The nurse smirks.
I stare at her nametag. Norma. Not sure I like her. I look up.
Nurse Norma points at my bundle.
“Yes.” I’m cradling them under my big blue purse. “Yes all mine.”
“Just…give them to me—I’ll have the doctor take a look.” She reaches.
I hesitate. Why is she so grabby? I hand over my life…my file…it all feels the same. I’ve put these last five years of dental history into special folders.
“Just put your things in the corner.” She sets down my bundle. Careful! I walk to the corner, drop my purse…we’re still checking each other out. “Come sit.” Norma orders.
I sit in the chair reserved for dental patients, feeling like Norma’s mental patient. Norma adjusts the arm, I tuck in. Norma fits me with my dental bib, grabs my x-rays and…“I’ll get the doctor for you,”…flies out.
I inspect the room: a little bigger than most dental offices, but with all the usual gear—drills, x-ray machines, chair side sink, a cup and its holder, sharp instruments, a flat T.V. screen, and a window (they don’t all have windows). The windows are lined with big planters and faucets for easy watering. Nature comforts me here. I close my eyes and wonder why dental offices never have any dedicated hooks or chairs for people to rest their things on...stay awake, stay awake.
I sit up and rinse my mouth with the soapy mouthwash from the cup, spit, lie back and listen to the music—Tchaikovsky, a faint version of Swan Lake’s cello solo. The sun hits my face through the greenery... sun and shadow, sun and rest, sun and stillness. I need to close my eyes, but the doctor…I sleep in the sun.
Swoosh, swoosh—rocking the hammock back and forth—sun and shade, all the sounds blending into one—crickets singing to the dentist’s cello solo, lawn mowers buzzing to distant high-speed drills from another office.
“You know, kids, I might die,” Mom says. I open my eyes to see my sister Autumn’s little face streaming with tears. I close them again. My foot drags outside the hammock, an anchor to stop/start. Swoosh, the trees, the wind—the sun plays hide and seek behind my eyes—shadow puppets change shapes. October in Sag Harbor cradles us in the hammock, mom my sister and me, tucked together in macramé rope... swoosh.
“Ok, Ok, mommy.” Autumn accepts the news. “Would we have to live with Dad?” I rock us faster. “I don’t know, girls, I just don’t know.” Swoosh.
“Hello, my name is Doctor Nowzari.” The dentist stands over me with what looks like a permasmile. Crap I fell asleep. “Well, I’ll tell you these x-rays tell a story and by looking at you, I mean, who would think that a beautiful woman like you would have such x-rays.” Don’t let that smile disqualify him, he could be the one—give him a chance, they say he’s good, a ‘periodontist.’
Doctor Nowzari sits and rolls on the rolling stool in close to me, his teeth showing in listening position. A tall Asian man in a white lab coat appears in the door. Nowzari motions and the man enters to stand behind him. Together they hover, “Tell me,” the dentist says.
I feel groggy from my mini nap. “Ummm…” I clear my throat. “Four years ago…” I sit up a little. “I had all my mercury amalgams removed by an alternative dentist. I had 17 fillings.”
“Yes.” Nowzari nods, keeps smiling.
“Then, at the same time, I had my last wisdom tooth pulled, on the lower left.”
“Ok.” More nodding, more smiling.
“Since that time I have had health problems—ahh, pain all over my body, pain in everyone of my teeth, pain that shoots from my teeth into my body... I’ve had three miscarriages...G.I. Symptoms, stomach pains, rectal pains, vibrating in my body, pains in my feet. Mysterious cysts on my cervix, they call them ‘nabothian cysts.’ I know all this is coming from my teeth because I’ve never had these problems before. I’ve also been told I have lyme disease and chronic infections.”
“Lyme? What does Lyme have to do with your teeth?” A giggle.
“Right, I know…so confusing. So, now, I’ve been everywhere and seen everyone and, when I tell dentists about this, they often say, ‘Don’t tell me about your body pains, just about your teeth.’” Nowzari still smiling, “When the first dentist was working on my teeth, he put in these white fillings and I had some strange allergic reaction to them. He panicked... and…then…he refilled some of my teeth four and five times, exposing the nerve in some of those teeth and leaving temporary fillings, ‘IRM’ in them.”
“Yes...So—I lost faith in that dentist and went on to see other dentists—to repair some of this work—because I still had IRM left in some of my teeth. But then a year later, and one miscarriage behind me, I was worse, so—I went to see another alternative dentist and he took a ‘panorex.’” I point to my x-ray pile to their left. They both look over and Dr. Nowzari rolls himself to the pile looking for the lower left. “... And told me I had a ‘cavitation’ in my wisdom tooth site. Ahhh, more dentists, and even more…then I was told I needed to have surgery for the cavitation, to drill out the dead bone. But I was too scared to have them drill into the bone and clean it out, so instead they sent me to ‘hyperbaric oxygen therapy’ for thirty five sessions.”
“Wow, thirty five sessions.” Nowzari is no longer smiling.
I look at him, at all of them, the nurse and the two men. The tilt from my chair makes it difficult for me to see their faces. The light from the window blinds me. The Asian man sneaks up against the leather chair and smiles politely. “Thirty five, that’s right. But, it didn’t work, so eventually they did drill out the bone. They did the surgery, the cavitation. But—I still had lots of problems, so—I have now spoken with several more specialists and they say I need root canals because my teeth are all infected. Mmm. Then the alternative dentists say that root canals will give me cancer— that it would be better to pull out all my teeth, my molars. But, I am only forty-three years old, and I still want to have a child and at forty- three with all these problems... Well, I’m, ah, concerned that something serious is, could be, ah, wrong with me. Something deep that hasn’t been found yet.” I squint up at Nowzari looking for his eyes.
“Ok, Ok, it’s ok. You’ re going to be fine. I know, I know how you feel. I promise you all this is coming from your teeth,” Nowzari squeezes my arm. “It can happen.” Is he being nice?
“Yes, but I have pain all over my body.”
“I know. This can happen. Let me look inside.” He holds up his gloved hands.
“I hs pppai I threeee and fourt.” I say with his hands in my mouth.
“Tell me.” He takes his hands out and smiles again.
“I have pain in 3 and 14.”
“She knows the numbers on her teeth.” The Asian man speaks for the first time.
“Yes, yes she does.” Nowzari puts his hands back in my mouth.
“And eiiiiiieiiinnnn,” I garble, taking care not to bite him.
“Yes, you have pain in 18.” He says pulling his hands fast out of my mouth again.
“Yes, and it vibrates, too.”
“I know, I know, we’re going to take care of it all. Now, I’m a ‘periodontist’ and you don’t really need me. What you need is a dentist. Who shall we send her to? Norma?” He calls, “Can you get an x-ray of number 18, please. We’re going to find you the right dentist, and the ‘endodontist.’
“Endodontist?” Oh my god, I am being sent to someone else?
“Yes, for the root canals. Just let her take the x-ray. Norma?”
They both step out.
Norma comes around to my left and, “Open,” she puts that little plastic thing in, and, “Bite down.” Then pulls the round x-ray lens to my face and, “Don’t move,” Then she throws the heavy lead blanket over my chest. “Ok, I’ll be right back.” She steps out.
I picture our soft kitten Fleur sleeping in the crook of my neck with her downy white kitten fur at four AM, crawling under the covers purring my left side to sleep. How many more—before my body can carry full term? How many more dentist…one one-thousand… how many more doctors...two one-thousand…how many more…three one…