Dental health and mental health: they rhyme, but are they also actually the same thing?
And here is why.
Dental health is an allegory for mental health not because both are essential throughout life, but because both are essentially expensive forms of witchcraft.
I’ve had tooth issues for twenty years. From painful, elaborate contraptions that stunted my ability to say the letter “s” and, by proxy, make friends for all of seventh grade; to a lifelong, downward curve in my bottom jaw that makes my front teeth sit about a centimeter apart even when my teeth are clenched, I haven’t even made it by the skin of my teeth. Because my teeth have been skinned: of their function and their pride.
Over the past year alone I’ve had three root canals — Not because I have poor oral health, but because the only teeth i actually use are my molars and, as a side-effect, they’re essentially destroyed by overuse.
And my dentist’s advice? “Chew more gently.”
It’s been the kind of adventure that everyone loves to read about but none of us are too thrilled to star in.
If you’ve ever had a toothache, you know what it feels like to be slowly tortured. So advising that I simply just use my teeth less is very similar to telling someone with lung cancer to just breathe less.
It’s 2015. The Higgs boson particle has been discovered. America is about to elect either its first female, first socialist, or first human butt hole to the White House. TVs can talk, cars can drive themselves, phones have more technology than the entire year of 1950, and alcohol comes in powder form.
So how is it that, in an age of literal miracles, treating dental health issues boils down to a series of failed attempts and an eventual, “Well, just learn to live with it”?
At least my oral health isn’t embarrassing to talk about. In fact, most people are fascinated by my decades-long dentin debacle, sitting at rapt attention with their aligned jaws resting on their palms and their strong, straight teeth stretched in an awed grin. However, the challenges of mental health — with which I’ve likewise grappled since pre-k — are not something acquaintances, friends, family, or other humans in general tend to have patience with.
And honestly. What. The. Fuck.
I mean, the least permanent part of my body has people begging for details about this procedure or that device while the part of me that is literally me merits little more than, “Aw, I’m sorry,” or “You should just try to relax,” from anyone whose ear I’m fortunate enough to snag for a fleeting moment of attention to, you know, confide the shittiness of having a brain that doesn’t quite function on most days.
What’s worse is that there are no root canals for brain pain (at least not legally, in this century). A crown on your head does little to abate hyper sensitivity. Elaborate contraptions have yet to be invented to straighten or adjust a misaligned mind. Cavities of the mind can’t be drilled and filled in an afternoon after work.
Not only do people care less about mental health, there’s less to be done about it. Because medical professionals with the expertise to manage mental issues are, just like the dentists to whom we entrust our dental health, worthless idiots with very little understanding of how to actually cure pain.
I don’t need pity or sympathy. I need to feel better. I need to be able to eat more than room-temperature oatmeal without incredible, searing pain shooting through my bottom jaw. And even more urgently than teeth that chew without bitching about it, I need a brain that thinks without over-analyzing, obsessing, stressing, breaking down, freaking out, and just quitting.