How self-acceptance contributed to me not hating dental appointments

Mary Feamster
2 min readAug 11, 2023

Get ready to hear something INSANE. Today I, a life-long haver of terrible teeth and hater of the dentist, enjoyed a routine dental exam.

Here is the background (I’m sure many folks can relate):
I’ve had bad teeth for as long as I can remember. Thin-enameled, cavity-prone, crowded, fragile teeth. I dislike ice, biting anything cold, and dental visits.

Lack of insurance, periods of poor hygiene, athletics, and phases of purging when I was struggling with my eating disorder have all contributed to my “ bad teeth” getting negative feedback and painful treatment at many dental visits. I’ve been shamed about my flossing habits, given catastrophic predictions, had a root canal in my 20s, and suffered through a LOT of pain in the dentists’ chair. I’m so dentist-avoidant that, prior to finally getting my root canal in my 20s, I stuck out the pain for months. My tooth nerve was almost completely dead and I was taking tons of ibuprofen while pacing to deal with the pain by the time I finally got it treated.

Today, I had the opposite experience. I went in, with my bad teeth, for my first cleaning since before the pandemic struck. I told the hygenist about my cold sensitivity and the probelm areas in my mouth. I felt relaxed and in control during the appointment. And when the dentist came in, she said, quote: “ The teeth look good”. The teeth look good?! After almost 4 years without care? After a lifetime of being called bad? Amazing.

Ok, so yes, I changed some habits after that root canal in my 20s. I floss often… not daily..but multiple times a week. I use the sensitivity toothpaste, and I haven’t purged in years.

The main difference that I feel and see is the self-acceptance. I’m genetically prone to thin enamel. I went through a long period where I didn’t take good care of my mental or physical health. But I’m not going to blame myself or beat myself up anymore. I decided, instead of angrily neglecting my teeth or desperately trying to change them; to embrace the flaws, good luck, and bad luck reflected in my smile and take measures to protect my teeth and keep them comfortable. Beyond that, I learned not to equate my worth with my dental health. As much as I would love to have beastly, bright, unbreakable teeth, it’s not in the cards for me. I’ve learned to accept that and take care of the teeth I have. And guess what? For the first time in my life, I enjoyed a trip to the dentist. And she said the teeth look good.

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Mary Feamster

Therapist, momma, lover of the outdoors. Here to talk openly about mental health.