I have never had fantastic luck with dentists, and it got worse when I moved here. I had a dentist in 1994 who, when drilling my tooth, hit a nerve and told me it shouldn't have been there and when I cried told me that Americans were babies. The dentist who (horrified) fixed that was great, then she left the practice. The next one I found was incredible, private practice and worth it; she emigrated with her husband. The person who took over her practice told me that a good way to lose weight was if you had to have your jaw wired shut and I should think about that. The dentist after her was clearly comparably better, because that was a pretty low bar, and also just a pleasant person.
But after about a decade of perfectly acceptable care, she got... sloppy? The nurse who had been with her since the beginning left a couple years ago, and it was a different one the next time, and the next time again. And I know that's a sign, but I just really couldn't bear to look for a dentist again. I got some fillings that didn't feel quite right, but I thought: maybe this is part of the aging process, that your teeth just start to fall apart. She fixed a cavity and when I told her I felt like the filling was too small, she drilled on the other side to make it match. And it did match, then, and I thought well maybe the previous tooth's filling had been too big? I can't see inside my mouth, and I don't have x-ray vision. I'm not a dentist; I have to trust she knows what she's doing. Before the first lockdown I had an appointment because I thought I needed a filling; I got there and told her my tooth felt really wrong, like the filling was loose in the hole, she refused to x-ray it and told me we'd get it next time because she was busy. It broke during lockdown.
So anyway I got a new dentist. They did an x-ray, which I obviously appreciated, and showed me that my last three fillings had not been exactly full, more like about halfway into the cavity. So those had to be pulled out and done again, plus I had a new cavity. In the last six months I have been to the new dentist I think six times and spent I don't even know how much on getting my teeth back to where they were three years ago. When I close my mouth, all my molars line up, my jaw sits comfortably without my having to jut it into place. And I remember that my teeth used to do that, but it had been such incremental shifts away from normal from that I hadn't noticed how far it had shifted (in fact, it was seeing myself talking on a zoom call when I realized how much my jaw was off).
Despite what you may have heard, if a frog is placed in a pan that is gradually heated until it reaches boiling, the frog will jump out at the point that the water becomes uncomfortably hot. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, the extent to which I adjust to situations. I don't want to be difficult, I don't want to be overly fussy, and I recognize that some things that matter to me don't matter to other people and sometimes we just need to get along with each other and with living. On the other hand, the point at which I jump out of the water, I turn around and stare at the pan, dumbfounded. The feeling that I have been experiencing is threefold: one, I did not realize that the problem I had was possible to fix or worthy of being fixed; two, how the hell did I think not being able to close my mouth on both sides was a thing I should adjust to? What took me so long? How long could I have been comfortable, if I'd just acknowledged even to myself that I was uncomfortable?; and three, I am so happy to be able to chew properly again. And so now: is this a thing I have learned about dentists, or can I perhaps I apply it to other things?