I hate going to the dentist.
Nothing personal if you happen to be a dentist or be married to one (I’m sure if you are, you have great teeth and thus, never even need to see one!) but I really, truly dislike going to the dentist. I hate the reclining chair, the little wheely-table with scary tools and the ugly sunglasses you have to wear.
It hasn’t always been this way. I actually used to love going to the dentist when I was a kid. They would hook me up with that little strawberry-flavored nose-tube that filled my head with happy thoughts as the dentist did his dirty work. I liked floating on a little cloud while I got a silver tooth and afterwards; there was always a sucker given for being a good lil’ patient.
Of course, nowadays, they realize that wasn’t the brightest idea for dentists to give kids more sugar and now, they hand out toothbrushes instead (boring, right?!). I lucked out and was part of that “wild kid” generation that got suckers at the dentist, drank out of water-hoses and never wore a bike helmet and miraculously, lived to tell about it.
My love-affair with the dentist came to a screeching halt at the age of 19 while I was living in Mexico. I was teaching at a school in a remote village and when I started to experience a lot of tooth pain. I mentioned this to the mother of one of my students, as I knew she was a dentist, and she advised me to come in to her office. After a thorough exam, the sweet dentist explained the problem to me but it was it was communicated in very rapid Spanish! This was a big “problemo” because my Spanish was not so great so I shrugged and agreed to whatever she said, desperate for relief from the pain
A few hours later, she was still trying to extract the tooth which involved her knee to my chest (NO joke) as she used an “extractor”(which looked more like a pliers!) to rip the tooth from my mouth. She eventually called over her husband (also a dentist) and he held me down while she gave me another shot then tried again (and finally got it out). The last thing I remember that day was noticing the blood all over my shirt and walking into the waiting room where my friend that brought me was waiting. I gave her a shaky smile and said, “I feel a little woozy...” before I slid to the floor in a dead-faint.
Fast-forward ten years to another dentist visit (this time in the good ol’ US of A, thank God!) where he examined the tooth-replacement my Mexican dentist had put in and declared it was terrible with an infection to boot. This also caused the adjacent tooth to require a root canal! I agreed both the root canal and to get the botch job extracted so long as he promised not to pin me down with his knee if it got “stuck”!
Fortunately the botch job got fixed; however, unfortunately, that root canal went south so I landed in the hospital for an oral surgery procedure that also failed (it’s rather amazing at this point that I had any teeth left!). In fact, during this last surgery, a nerve nicknamed the “suicide-nerve” (imagine why!) was accidentally severed and the effect of this spiraled me into over two years of constant head pain ("My Megaphone of Pain" blog).
Although my friends and family and I never stopped praying for my healing during those two years, it was just an ordinary day at an ordinary Bible study with some girlfriends who grouped together and laid their hands on me and prayed again when I suddenly received inexplicable healing, aka, a miracle! Since all the doctors we had seen during those years had said there was NO cure for what had happened to me and nothing that could stop the non-stop pain (think: migraines on steroids 24/7), we were left without human hope but still held on to a hope beyond this earthly realm. And God showed up.
The morning after that ordinary-turned-extraordinary day, I woke up with a new sense of the gift of life. I no longer viewed everything (at the time I was a stay-at-home mom with three young children) through the foggy lens of pain: I was free and full of gratitude...and a little gun-shy of dentists.
Fast forward another few years to a rainy day last week when I walked into a dentist (tooth pain, yet again!) on shaky legs.
After I donned the ugly shades and the dentist examined my aching tooth he declared the unthinkable, “Root canal!” While he left to get his drill, I frantically searched for a paper-bag to hyperventilate into! I tried to think happy thoughts but the memories of my encounters at the dentist all came rushing into my mind in techni-color brilliance.
The gentle, smiling hygienist got wide-eyed when she walked back in and discovered me in a fetal-position in the chair, crying my eyes out. She cocked her head at me (no doubt thinking: this scares you and you just told me you have five kids under 6 years old at home?!) and I quickly explained my nightmarish dental experiences from the last decade. When I ended with my experience with the non-stop, incurable head pain I had struggled with for two years, she leaned in,
“So, how did the pain ever stop?”
“It was a miracle,” I wiped away a tear and smiled, in spite of the scary dental tools laid out between us on that darn little wheely-table, “God healed me after some girlfriends prayed for me. There is no other explanation.”
Her mouth dropped, “Wow. I just got goose-bumps.” With that, we chatted about God. I had a chance to share a little about my Saviour and His pure-awesomeness with someone that I probably wouldn’t have ever had a chance to if I hadn’t been through dentist-hell!
In fact, by the time the dentist returned, my panic-attack had left. Instead, I was smiling on the inside (since I couldn’t on the outside with my mouth propped wide open!) about the way God uses messy people like me. When I thought I was at my worst (a supposedly “strong” mother melting down over a little root-canal), God showed up at His best and used me anyway.
Though I still don’t like going to the dentist, here’s to hoping there is a dental hygienist out there that is giving God a second chance tonight because of the testimony of a panicking mom who shared about his amazing, saving grace...even through her ridiculous tears.