Tuesday, March 02, 2010

MY DENTIST DIAGNOSES THE PROBLEM WITH MY LIFE


beach chairs in winter, originally uploaded by patryfrancis.

It all started when a tooth was broken nearly to the root by an anesthesia tube during surgery. Since I'd been avoiding my dentist for something like five years, I considered us officially broken-up and chose a new one from the phone book. He insisted on a full set of X-rays.

After studying them, my new dentist regarded me grimly. "What we have here is a pattern of neglect," he said, and paused dramatically. "If something doesn't change, you're going to face some serious consequences."

While I was pondering the profundity of that, he added the clincher: "Problems don't fix themselves, you know. Something has to be done."

"A pattern of neglect?" I repeated. "Really?" Suddenly I felt as if I were talking to a therapist instead of a dentist. It was as if he'd peered into my disorganized closets, passed the house with the neglected garden, and the trim that needs painting. Then he looked deeper and saw my unfinished algebra assignments from eighth grade, the college papers cranked out during frenzied all-nighters the day after they were due, the sinful number of cantaloupes and grapefruits I bought at the supermarket, and forgot to eat. And what about all the mounted of good intentions I never quite acted upon? Clearly, the pattern of neglect stretched back to elementary school and probably beyond. In diapers, I was probably vowing to quit the pacifier and be more outgoing...tomorrow. .

Of course, I had all kinds of sound reasons why I've avoided the dentist: no dental insurance...serious health issues that took precedence...the daunting cost of all the root canals and crowns my ex- dentist told me I needed all those years ago...genetically bad teeth from my father's side of the family... And did I mention my lack of dental insurance?

"It's up to you," he said. Then he shrugged and left the room. Apparently, he'd seen my type before.

But I left the office with a commitment to do something this time, and a phrase buzzing in my ear: pattern of neglect, pattern of neglect, pattern of neglect.


I raced home and called my best friend, and then my cousin and my daughter, and told them excitedly that my dentist had just diagnosed what's wrong with my life: It's a chronic condition called Pattern of Neglect. And what's more, there's a cure: Give up the delusional concept that problems solve themselves and do something!

Since none of the people I called happen to suffer from my condition this revelation didn't have the same impact on them as it did on me.


In spite of my friends' and family's doubts, I insisted there was hope for me. I could stop thinking, pondering and dreaming so much and become a master of problem solving, however belatedly. A woman of action!

Well, that was six months ago, and this week, I finally have an appointment to see an oral surgeon about an implant to replace my broken tooth. The twenty thousand dollar treatment plan outlined by the dentist has still not been implemented, and my closet still needs to be cleaned, but not one cantaloupe has died in my crisper in months, the revisions to my new novel are just about complete....and so far nothing hurts in my mouth. Who knows? Maybe problems do solve themselves.

43 comments:

Dave said...

They'd better! That's been my strategy, too.

Patry Francis said...

I always knew you were a kindred spirit, Dave.

Eric Riback said...

I sympathize with the prospective pain and cost, but it's worth mentioning that your dental/periodontal health can seriously affect the rest of your health.

Patry Francis said...

Eric: Thanks for adding a serious note. I do worry about the inflammation issue...

leslee said...

Ow. And that refers to the price. I'm going to kick myself now to avoid going into the US healthcare mess issue...

I think a certain amount of stuff has to get neglected if you're going to be able to focus on the important things! You can't do it all.

Crockhead said...

Patry,it's so good to see you posting again and see that you have lost none of your writing ability, your humor and your "good will."

daisy said...

I've been dealing with dental issues the past year and the cost! Yikes. I've heard the "pattern of neglect" before too (although not those exact words) and I really don't get it. I go for my cleanings, I floss...most days...and I brush regularly. Sometimes you just have bad teeth no matter WHAT you do. Still tho...the cost is outrageous (and I do have dental ins little good that it does) and makes it very hard to keep up with the dental plan.

You have my sympathy.

Patry Francis said...

Leslee: True! In this economic climate, I'm sure I'm not alone in finding "avoidance" the only dental work I can afford.

crockhead: Thank YOU for being here after my blog was nearly overrun wih weeds from my infamous pattern of neglect.

daisy: Yes! I never go to bed without flossing--and have spent years of my life in the dentist's chair--sporadically, but still! Right now I'm looking at root canals and crowns for 8 teeth, at a mind boggling cost with no guarantee they won't need to be replaced. Ay, carumba!

debra said...

Maybe everything the dentist said is true. It seems to me that there are other ways to communicate recommendations --- without guilt.
When I was a kid, Uncle George was the family dentist. I hadn't had any cavities until I was 18---and that was a huge one. Uncle George didn't use novacaine. I didn't go to the dentist for 5 years. When I needed to go, I found a new one. No guilt. Just a plan--- a long one---and it also included a payment plan.
Good to see you back :-)

Perfect Virgo said...

Oh, do I know the "avoidance" strategy! Every time a root howls in agony I grit my remaining teeth and make weak promises about tomorrow but when the pain subsides so does my conviction. Patterns of neglect wrapped in cycles of prevarication. I am disappointed in me but a morbid fear of the dentist is hard to overcome.

marja-leena said...

Not fun, the pain and the cost! But you do 'make hay' of the subject wonderfully, Patry! And great to read that your novel is nearly ready, congratulations - that's a perfect excuse for neglecting the closets!

Kerstin said...

Are you talking about me by any chance, Patry? Oh boy, this resonates more than I care to admit. Pattern of Neglect. Thinking rather than doing. And really, problems do not solve themselves? Really?? Damn. All I know is that what others seem to be doing more or less effortlessly, you know they just *do* it, often is a HUGE effort for me. And of course you know this, too: once you've actually taken care of something like this you feel so much BETTER :) I guess I better make that dentist appointment now, the one I've been avoiding, too! Kxo

musingwoman said...

I'm so glad that clicked for you.

I've been working on my own patterns of neglect recently, too. Everything from cleaning out my closet to making sure the arts have a bigger place in my life.

P.S. I'm also going to the dentist later this month and am not looking forward to it. But, if you can do it, I can do it! (I think)

Kate Champagne said...

Dentist as therapist. Love it. Every once in a while, I need a ton of dental work. A veneer broke two weeks ago, and the tooth underneath had decayed. So. It had been more than 20 years since I had the bridges and veneers put in, so in again for the long haul. When it rains, it pours. When the bridges break, they break. Big time. Tufts. Harvard has major attitude. And is full up. Tufts. Slow. Less pain, less financial pain.

Kate Champagne said...

Re: inflammation. I read that the inflammation issue by itself - absence of smoking or alcoholism is not as serious as with other factors. I brush, floss, mouthwash constantly. Several times a day. I have paid for Crest staffers to go to Bermuda a million times.

Allie said...

Oh! I totally get it. I have a seriously hard time taking care of me. Everyone else - yeah, I can do that. Me? It's like climbing a mountain to make a phone call for a doctor's appt.

Dale said...

Well, shoot, if you jump in solving every problem that comes up, you're wasting all that time on the ones that *will* just solve themselves!

Like that Garrison Kiellor "commericial" says: "Duct tape! Because in the long run, all solutions are temporary."

robin andrea said...

It's always baffled me how the health insurance industry decided that teeth were not really part of the body, and therefore needed their own kind of insurance. A rather tricky bunch, those guys.

Closets have to be organized? I had no idea!

Lorna said...

And I've been seeing counsellors and psychologists...what a waste of money I could be using on my teeth.

Patry Francis said...

debra: I've been considering that payment plan thing...have also thought of trying to negotiate the price. The dentist's office seemed awfully quiet the day I was there.

PV: "Patterns of neglect wrapped around cycles of prevarication" That states it perfectly. But at least, your closets are organized!

marja-leena: Thank you! I'm excited about the novel, too. And yes,the closets will wait.

kerstin: Actually, I WAS thinking of you today--as someone who DOES instead of thinking about doing. Your ability to plan big moves, to follow through, and create gorgeous homes wherever you go has been an inspiration. But I suppose we all have our issues with avoidance.

musing: Thanks for reminding me that there are spiritual patterns of neglect too and those can be the most dangerous of all. I like your resolve to make more room for the arts.

Kate: I tried the Tufts Dental School for a while, too. Loved the students, and the price was right, but one visit pretty much consumed the whole day.

Allie: You are so right! I would never tell a child with a toothache to take a couple of aspirins and hope it goes away. Why do I think that strategy is a good idea for me? And why does that mountain of resistance grow higher every time we turn away from it?

Dale: Hadn't heard that quote before, but I love it. Who knew a commercial for duct tape could be so profound?

Robin: Great point. Why AREN'T teeth covered under standard health plans? I also wonder when and why the cost of dental care became so prohibitive.

Patry Francis said...

Lorna: I'll hook you up with my dentist. He'll give you a root canal and resolve your deep psychological issues in an hour, all for a mere thousand bucks. How can you beat it?

Sky said...

i imagine the dentist has already told you that teeth health can affect heart health. i know this because the director of the department i worked in while in GA ended up in big trouble due to his neglect of teeth health. he was very ill with serious heart problems and hospitalized for weeks due to this.

so glad you are having the implant done. hope you will be able to move forward with the other things soon, payment by payment. i had a back molar pulled when i was in my 20s because i could not afford the root canal and crown. i wish so much now that i had financed the work instead of giving up my tooth. :< please let me know how the implant goes. i would like to get one myself if it is not too painful and seems to work. are you put totally under for this or do you have conscious sedation?

hopefully one day healthcare in this country will acknowledge that dental care, eye care, mental health treatment, and addcition treatment are vital to our health and will include these fully in coverage. it is reprehensible that they are all discriminated against.

Anonymous said...

I love my dentures. What can I say. It was a final easy solution to 35 years of monthly dental visits and more than 35,000 dollars that could have been spent elsewhere. Having my teeth pulled was the best thing I ever did for my mouth. I sure wish I had done it 35 years ago!!! I took care of my mouth and teeth meticulously, but my teeth and gums were still doomed to failure. Now I have succeeded!

daisy said...

I had 4 crowns and one root canal last year...and I have 2 more crowns to go (I needed 6 and could only afford 4). I got to the dentist for a cleaning next month and I know what he'll be telling me about the needed two and I'm sure will have more "issues" as well. My mom keeps telling me to go the denture route, but I'm just not ready for that.

Patry Francis said...

Sky: I have my consultation tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes!

anonymous: When I was sick, I realized a lot of the things we fear are really not so frightening. You really get a sense of what Dale said: All solutions are temporary (and so am I!)

daisy: Sometimes doing it all at once is too intimidating, not to mention financially unfeasible. It sounds as if you have a good plan.

rdl said...

pattern of neglect - love it - sounds like a great title. so glad u wrote this. i remember how i loved hearing you tell it to allison & me at the fairview and saying that would make a great post.

Tinker said...

I think I may be cut (very sloppily) from the same pattern, or a pretty similar one - but maybe there's hope for me yet. Think I'll start with the crisper drawer - well, tomorrow -- it's late tonight...
;-)

bibliophiliac said...

Oh, dear. This could be me. I can testify that houses do not clean themselves, marriages do not fix themselves, and bad jobs stay bad or get worse. Sometimes husbands obligingly abscond, but none of my other problems have been so easily solved. I suspect we are cousins, or possibly separated at birth.

Patry Francis said...

r: I wish we were at the Fairview now, though with this laryngitis, I wouldn't be up for the all-night talk marathon.

Tinker: There's got to be a reason that out of of the vast blogiverse, we connected and became friends.

Biblio: At least, we both get a lot of books read! No pattern of neglect there. Thanks for opening out the topic. The PON clearly doesn't limit itself to eroding teeth and closets crammed with stuff that hasn't been worn in years.

Annie said...

You sound so much like me! I laughed. I need to go to the dentist about a tooth he said would fall apart 6 months ago :-).
It still stands tall. Love you and am so happy when I see a new post.
xoxo

Patry Francis said...

Annie: So glad to hear your tooth is still standing tall. Love you, too!

i beati said...

I'm with you 1000 per cent chemo and radiation did a number on my teeth.

generic viagra said...

It is important to always have dental insurance, so if a problem occurs with any dentist, we might have to pay back any consequence. In many cases the dentist does things by sheer neglect, out of trouble and suffering the consequences is one.

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dentists hendersonville tn said...

"Problems don't solve themselves." I like the sound of that. I remember my friend telling me though, "The problem with troubleshooting is that the problem shoots itself." Oh well.

I remembered the time when I've just moved in to Tennessee and had to see a dentist. Nashville surely has a lot of reliable dentists and I'm grateful that I was able to get one.

I hope everything's gonna be well with your dental procedure, Patry.

Tony Destroni said...

finding a good dentist is very hard to find . i have check some sites in the net after i found one . he's good and very approachable to his client's he explains everything before doing some operations . I have bookmarked it in my computer its called dentistas hope this can help you

Fawn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Emmy Summers said...

It looks like you had a life-changing moment the day you went to your dentist. I believe a lot of people have this P.O.N. disease (Pattern Of Neglect). We seem to waste a lot of time thinking about things of trivial nature, and that is why we fail to see the bigger picture.

casi clinici implantologia said...

It is important to have dental insurance for all the problems that maybe occurs with any dentist.

Kit Mayer said...

Somehow, your dentist has said some things for you to ponder. It actually made you think how you’re doing well with life all this time. He did have a point. I agree that problems don’t just get solved by themselves. As the saying goes, “Action is the foundational key to all success”. In short, you have to do something to fix something. ;)

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Eduardo Tomlin said...

Aren’t toothache and psychology kind of the same in essence? Just like your teeth, if you leave it alone it will earn more problems and it could actually fall off, if you don’t have it checked and maintained then it could be beyond repair. But what does teeth and your life have in common? Confidence. You need confidence to face an audience, and having nice white teeth by flossing and brushing boosts your confidence, and if you take care of your life, can boost your confidence, isn’t that right?