Most of my friends would tell me I haven't really changed since KuKd came barging into my life, at least not in any obvious ways. There are a few subtle changes, however, for stress seems to manifest itself in odd ways. One in particular is bugging me at this exact moment, as I sit here at a pub in a quiet Estonian village. It has to do with, of all things, my teeth. My back molars, to be exact.
Now, I've never had never had any major tooth problems, other than the couple of fillings that I required after a year of working at the university library, where I sat at the front desk for fifteen hours a week, way too close to a endless dish of butterscotch candies. My dental appointments have always been uneventful: a routine cleaning, a "your teeth look great!" and a free toothbrush.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I went in for my first cleaning after moving to Seattle, six months after my first ugly bout of KuKd, and the dentist - a vaguely Asian guy with thick glasses - tapped on my back right molar with a sharp thing and said, "looks like we have a problem."
"A problem?" I tried to say. But, with my mouth wide open, it came out like "a pahleh?"
"You're a tooth grinder, aren't you." He removed the sharp instrument and let me close my mouth so I could respond like a normal human.
"Um, no. What do you mean?"
"Ever wake up with headaches? Jaw aches?"
I shook my head. Actually, I did get headaches fairly often, but not necessarily in the mornings. Why even mention them to this stranger hovering over my face.
"Well, your molars are worn down like a classic nighttime tooth-grinder's. Sometimes this habit is hereditary, sometimes stress-induced. You'd better start wearing a mouth guard at night, or these are really going to hurt. And you'll need caps - those are pretty costly, young lady."
I never got the mouth guard because it was going to cost me nearly $500 for a custom-made one. Plus, I seriously doubted there was a real problem - probably some ploy to get me to buy an overpriced dental widget.
Then, just a few months ago, I went to a new dentist, one closer to our new house.
"You're a tooth grinder, aren't you," she said, tapping on my back teeth. "Wow, these are worn way down for someone only in their thirties. Anything stressful going on? Does this run in your family?"
"No and no," I said, but it came out like "ngo anh ngo" since my mouth was wide open. This poor woman didn't need to know that yes, my baby had been stillborn just a few months ago.
Okay, I was now officially concerned. I was turning into a worn-down-molar freak. So I bought a mouth guard - just a cheap one from the sporting goods store.
The problem is, I never wear it because I'm constantly paranoid that I might swallow it in my sleep. Seriously, could that happen? If not, why not? People have swallowed bigger things, haven't they? Like those Japanese hot dog swallowers. I've tried sleeping with it several times, repeatedly waking up in a panic, thinking I've inhaled it. K calms me down and tells me I'm dreaming and I should go back to sleep. So I eject the spit-covered thing from my mouth and it always lands on the floor, where it remains and gets covered with dust for the next few days, right up until I decide to give it another try.
To this day, I've never made it through the night with that thing in my mouth. I told K that somebody needs to invent a string or a metal rod type of thing that attaches to the mouth guard on one end and the ceiling on the other, so that it holds the mouth guard in place and keeps it from going down your esophagus as you sleep. Or worse, your wind pipe, would would cause you to choke to death.
Needless to say, I didn't bring it on this trip. Why bother. But, now I can feel myself getting a slight jaw-ache, and grinding my teeth, yes, even during the day. In fact, I'm sort of doing it now. I feel guilty for disregarding the dentist's advice, knowingly wearing my teeth down, but yet I can't shake the feeling that I might die if I wear that thing.
It NEVER used to be this way before KuKd. Arrgh!