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When Depression Robs You of Your Teeth

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People used to tell me I had a nice smile.

Growing up my mom always harped on me about brushing my teeth because she didn’t take care of hers when she was younger and wound up with a partial.

When I was 13 I had to get braces, a retainer and those tiny rubber bands. This was back in the late 70s when braces weren’t fashionable and before they had the invisible and colored kind.

Then in 2005, my boyfriend Ruben died of cancer and I stopped brushing my teeth and virtually stopped taking care of myself. A friend of mine recently said, “That was 13 years ago,” not understanding clinical depression, which I already had, or why, even though I’m on five medications, see a psychiatrist and a therapist, that it doesn’t matter how long ago it was.

Several years ago I finally went to the dentist that my mom found for me, but he wasn’t personable and I remember him practically sawing through my mouth to get one of my teeth out that was decayed. Then, for awhile I went to a low-cost clinic that is now closed whose clientele focused mainly on those living with HIV and AIDS. The staff rotated dentists so you could get a kind one but the next time a rather cruel one. I had both at different times but I distinctly remember the last one I had wouldn’t give me any Novocaine and as I cried hysterically he responded, “I’m sorry but I’m not giving you anything for the pain.”

I remember waking up on Christmas morning, 2006 in excruciating pain and it was like, “Merry Christmas!” sarcastically in my head. I couldn’t eat the holiday dinner. I didn’t go to dentists for years and tried all the homemade remedies from Google off and on as the pain would come back, then subside and I could no longer smile in pictures.

I would look at pictures of the gorgeous girl I once was, sinking deeper into a depression as I realized I didn’t even resemble a shell of my former self.

I had to give up so many foods I loved because I couldn’t chew them. When I would go to the food banks for food they didn’t understand even when I told them. They just couldn’t comprehend. The food I miss the most is salad. I love salad!

I’ve ridden in an ambulance twice to get a pain shot at the hospital with my blood pressure skyrocketing due to dental pain. And I remember cursing myself in the hospital bathroom, saying, “Why can’t you brush your frigging’ teeth?”

Recently I went through two weeks of sheer pain and I went to a new dentist in shame who took x-rays. I warned him ahead of time it was going to be bad. As I sat in the chair and he told me the staggering cost of the dental work, I told him why I hadn’t taken care of my teeth. He was so kind and sweet and had the compassion I’d never found in a dentist. He referred me to an oral surgeon and wanted me to come back for a follow-up.

I told the dentist I was a monster and he said, “No, you’ve just been through some hardships.”

But, on the way to the oral surgeon I got in a wreck because I was in so much pain. I cried hysterically because I really needed to be seen.

Little did I know when I rescheduled for two days later it would be a complete waste of time. The surgeon had no compassion or sympathy and coldly told me how high the bill would be and that I would have to have all my teeth pulled while informing me that if I didn’t get back to him in a few days he’d drop me as a patient.

I never thought I’d ever be losing all my teeth and the sad thing is even if I could afford the implants the surgeon suggested, I can’t say I’d take care of them. And that is a must.

Can you relate to Terri’s story? Tell her in the comments below.

Unsplash via Nhia Moua

Originally published: March 4, 2019
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