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May 12, 2023

How Positive Thinking & Crystals in My Pockets Carried me Through a Root Canal Pain-Free

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Let’s start with the worst of times.

My first dreaded experience receiving dental care in Nicaragua was not ideal.  Suffering from an infected molar in need of healing and extracting was not ideal either.  So, practicing as many “teeth” and “pain” related words in Spanish as I could, I took a taxi to a well-ish reputed dentist in Granada, a city about a two-hour drive away.

Colonial-style homes-turned-businesses line the narrow streets in Granada, their large wooden doors painted in every vibrant color of the rainbow charm the humming city.  Perched snugly against Lago Cocibolca (Lake Nicaragua), Granada sits expectantly under the shadow of Mombacho, a lusciously green volcano, calm these days. However, its missing top above and a spattering of islands below made from chunks of past explosions that surround its base in the lake are a reminder that tranquility has not always been the theme of this pretty little town.

Cue my arrival at the dentist’s office on the outskirts of this erupted landscape. Cupping the right side of my face with my hand, I exited the taxi and made my way to my appointment.

Crossing the threshold, the walls closed in, shadowing an empty room where the only furniture was a barren, solitary desk flushed against the wooden door, the faded green paint long chipped off.  Behind the rickety desk, a young girl took my money, but not my name nor any history, or emergency contacts. She walked me into the small, dimly lit back room of the dental office that might have once been someone’s garage 80 years ago.

I followed along the unswept floors, down a hall hosting forgotten civilizations of dust clumps and hair.

The vinyl upholstery squeaked welcomingly as I sat into the duct-taped chair and leaned back, refusing to look closely at the dentist’s tools in the rusty tray waiting for me on a thin metal table. From outside, I could hear a dog fight start in the street, a brawl that combined with Spanish shouting, and didn’t end for some time. I did not feel all that safe.

But the dentist himself, true to rumor, was kind.

I waited.  The dentist smiled.  At least he seemed warm and knowledgeable on how to extract my painful back molar. After fighting infection, it was time to see it go.

Shall we skip ahead?  Let’s.

After, the dentist proudly held out his hand to show me my tooth he had pulled. He fumbled and the tooth fell to the floor, instantly splitting in half, each piece joining one of the thriving dust communities on his filthy floor.

Any other details have been lost in the fog of medication and denial. I do acknowledge that the only painful part of this procedure was my fear upon entering the office, and the following days of intense throbbing as the open wound in my mouth healed from the extraction.

Years passed by.

I blame the delay of my next Nicaraguan dental visit on the pandemic. (Actually, I will pretty much unapologetically blame the pandemic for any of my shortcomings, probably for the rest of my life).

This time, I had noticed a discoloring on a back tooth that didn’t look healthy, despite the twice daily brushing, the daily coconut oil pulling, and the positive words that swish past my teeth fairly regularly. (Shouldn’t positive affirmations contribute to our physical health? I think so).

Off to the dentist in Rivas I went, expecting a thorough cleaning and a good reprimanding in Spanish about how I should floss more.

Nope. This dentist was way more advanced than my last Granada dentist seemed to be.

Rather than a wooden weathered door with chipped green paint daring me to enter, this dental practice offered a wide-open entry through glass double doors, inviting me inside, and stepping onto white illuminated linoleum floors and strikingly clean white walls.  The reception area still only showcased one desk, sparsely decorated, with no computer, but just a kind face holding a pen and ready to take my money.

Sunshine spilled through open windows warmly encouraging me to follow the smiley young dental assistant to the back rooms.  The back rooms shone with sanitary light. These rooms were tidy and decorated with children’s artwork, and framed degrees on walls that legitimized this place as something modern and knowledgeable. I felt safe and cared about.

Once in the examination room, the dentist took one look at my teeth and announced I needed a root canal and two fillings. She indicated the tooth with suspicious coloring and tapped on it with one of her silver instruments.

Do you feel that? Tap-tap-tap.

No.

Or this? Knock-knock-knock.

No.

What about when I poke your tooth here? Poke-poke-poke.

Nope.

Well, she said, Your poor tooth is dead.  You need a root canal.

All I have ever heard about root canals is that they are dreaded all throughout the land.  They are the worst of times. They hurt beyond measure, and I’ve heard that your face slides sideways from the anesthesia, that they poison your blood, and sometimes patients bleed out to their deaths from such oral procedures.

Googling my options, I learned how root canals are connected to infections found throughout the body, including the heart, tainting meridian lines with bacteria.  Root canals are not just awfully painful, they are bad juju for our whole body’s health.

Burrowing down the rabbit hole, I discovered my alternative was to extract the tooth and opt for a replacement tooth, which could be shaped from cow teeth, porcelain, or even from human teeth.

My God. I couldn’t fathom or afford any of those possibilities.

So, despite the meridians, despite my less-than-ideal experiences in the past with dentists in Nicaragua, I urgently wanted to get back on track with healthy, alive teeth that are mostly white, and mostly straight as soon as possible.

At least in this newer office, in a different town, there were no duct-taped chairs. The floors were rather clean and offered me modern, comfy style recliners in a well-lit, sunshine-y room.

Two Nicaraguan dental assistants hovered over my goggled face, chattering away while the dentist stayed focused on her work with her silver tools in my open dribbling mouth.

Not to worry, they told me, they would numb my mouth and offered me control of the Office Alexa.  I took it and played hippy-dippy instrumental sounds promising to promote healing and release negative energy throughout the entire dental office loud enough to override the dentist’s drill.

I laid back in the chair and closed my eyes, succumbing to my fate, come what may.

That morning, I had meditated on cultivating positive thoughts and focused on creating positive energy.  I carried in my pocket two amethysts, and two other crystals meant to bring healing, strength, and protection.  I focused on the soothing healing sounds coming from Alexa. I swear, I almost fell asleep in that comfy chair. The experience was so relaxing, focusing my thoughts on my healthy teeth and healthy mouth, reeling in the positive light and sound filling the room, that I almost didn’t notice the drill, the pressure, the strain on my jaw.

I felt no pain.

And then it was over. Two hours of drilling and filling were completed.  I lifted myself out of the chair feeling spectacular! Kind of numb, maybe, and with a swollen face, but feeling as if I had just had a foot massage (except it was my jaw and gums, not my feet, and the use of a drill, not tender hands, but still). I never thought a root canal could feel so peaceful, gentle, and healing.  That’s how I felt.  I felt healed.

I paid my bill, and light as a feather, walked out of the brightly shining office and drove my own self home.  As far as dental visits go, this was the best of times.

What’s the moral of the story? I’d like to say that positive thoughts, and mind over matter can contribute to elevating any fearful or painful experience.

But let’s be real. The moral of the story this week is obvious: choose your dentists wisely.  And take care of your teeth.

~ Christy

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