Relief at the Dentist Office
“What makes your teeth so difficult to reach is the fact that you have a very small mouth with a long jaw – small opening with a great distance to reach that back tooth. My big old hands don’t fit so well,” and then the dentist chuckled as if I’d find this funny.
Oh that is so hilarious, I thought to myself.
“Of course the top teeth are a little harder to work on than the bottom teeth, but we’ll get you fixed up.”
My shoulder blades were already pushing hard against the back of the exam chair as if I could somehow get away from the approaching needle.
Hang in there, I told myself. Soon this will be just one more bad memory of the dentist’s office.
The fact that a previous dentist had nicked my tongue twice with the drill doesn’t scare me too much, and I’ve become pretty adept at knowing when to ask for more Novocain before they actually hit the nerve. The blinding pain of a drilled nerve has caused me to believe that I actually did crash through the ceiling while breaking all of the light bulbs in the room. At least that would have been one explanation for the flashing lights and throbbing pain inside my head before a far away voice said, “Oh, sorry about that. Are you ok? We’re almost done here.”
As I blinked through the tears, I shook my head back and forth. I’ve learned from experience that a dentist saying he’s almost done is much like a sermon which has reached its “finally point” or “in conclusion.” Don’t get your hopes up; just settle in for several more minutes.
What makes me squirm with anxiety more than anything else is the terrible ache that I get in my jaw. Trying to force my mouth to stay in an open position that is far more open than my mouth was ever intended to extend causes more than a “little discomfort.” Sometimes it has taken days for my jaw to stop aching.
Whew, the shot was in, and I received the perfunctory pat on the shoulder. “We’ll let that numb up a bit and be back in a few minutes.”
I tried to think of blue skies and meadows, but my whole body was tensing up. I’d barely even opened my mouth and my jaw was already screaming. I tried to open, but my mouth seemed to be stuck shut.
“I think I’m having a reaction to the Novocain,” I told the assistant in a near ventriloquist effort.
“I’m not saying this is in your head,” she said, “but you’re experiencing muscle memory pain. Your body knows what’s coming and so the muscles have already tensed up. Do your best to relax, and we’ll give you lots of breaks.”
Lots of breaks!?! I can’t even get my mouth open now, and you’re about to do a crown prep, my jaw was already in agony.
“Let’s try a bite block,” suggested the dentist.
I felt a spark of hope. I’d used a bite block in the past; and although on paper it sounds awful, it’s a wonderful little contraption. In the shape of a C with grooves for your teeth, it can be inserted on the opposite side of your mouth from where the work is to be done. This provides a nice little prop for your mouth.
Getting the bite block in was excruciating. They nearly had to pry my mouth open; but once it was in place, I had instant relief as my jaw rested on the block. Now instead of me doing the work to keep my mouth open, I could relax. My jaw had the support it needed.
Muscle memory pain – oh the grief we cause ourselves through fear and anxiety when rest is available. II Chronicles 32 tells a wonderful story about rest.
Sennecherib, King of Assyria, was preparing to invade Jerusalem. Quickly King Hezekiah did all he could to prepare for this siege; and when he had done all that was humanly possible, he told the people of Judah not to be afraid.
Don’t be afraid?! The Assyrians greatly outnumbered Judah, but Hezzekiah reminded the people that the Assyrians trusted only in flesh, “’but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles.’ And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah.. .”
I love that word “rested.” Strong’s defines it as a verb which means to lean upon, rest upon, uphold, or support. Resting my jaw on the bite block gave me a great deal of physical relief, but verbs involve action, and I was first required to open my mouth and then rest on the block before the relief could come. To be able to fully rest in God’s strength, we must first trust God with our lives, our well being, and our material things. Only then will we experience total relief from our fear and anxiety.