Photogenic is not a term anyone has ever used to describe me- but over the past few years I’ve become obnoxious about it. I no longer smile for pics. (Unless you really beg, or threaten to take my cupcakes.) Instead of smiling- I make faces. tongue out, eyes crossed, the goofier the better.

It’s not just because I’m a goof. (Admittedly, I am. We know this.) It’s actually, because I’m a freak. A dental-phobe freak.

For the past few years, I’ve had 2 missing teeth. Well, not quite missing… they are broken down to bits. Yes, I brush my teeth. A lot. The thing is- I have TMJ- and grind my teeth while I sleep. The grinding to bits has left me with a black hole of a gap on each side of my mouth. Especially if I smile. Attractive, huh?

Not. And I know- it. So, I don’t, show it.  At least not if I can help it. Especially for pictures. I smirk, half smile and mona-lisa on a bad day smile- but no real smiles. I’m embarrassed.

Why haven’t I gotten them fixed? (Yes, I can hear you from here.)  It’s not because I don’t have insurance. (I do.) While the cost is a factor-  it’s been more of an excuse. And no- It’s also not because I belong to some weird dental-denial cult.. (although sign me up if there is one…)

It’s because:

I HATE the dentist. No, not a normal- “I hate the dentist, too- who likes being poked and prodded and drilled and filled?” kind of way- but in an  “I’m having a panic attack and I feel like I’ll throw up” kind of way. If I even think about it. EVen if I don’t have an appointment. When I do have an appointment- the anxiety increases exponentially. Waiting for a few minutes before the appointment is akin to water boarding. That little reminder card you get in the mail about your 6 month check up?  It makes me hyperventilate. The sound of a dremel or drill? Makes me shake. Which- I may add is not fun, at the nail place. But, I’ve considered writing the appointments off as desensitization therapy. Except, I’m not desensitized. At all. #thatsafail.

I’m cracking jokes like teeth, here. But the truth is- I feel humiliated, not just by the gaps- but because fear has stolen my smile. And my peace. And my sense of self worth. I feel like an idiot. I have years of experience being a counselor- I know how to help people with phobias…. unless it’s me who is afraid. #counselorfail.

A vortex of fear and shame has sucked me in.

But, tomorrow?  I’m getting out.

Here’s the thing- I frequently have opportunities for public speaking. People like to take pictures. They prefer you not to stick out your tongue. They also take pics when you are least expecting it. Usually from weird angles, that show gaps.  And people don’t generally let you photoshop teeth into their pics before they leave an event. Also- in working to finish the book proposal, I’m realizing this dental dilemma has become a stumbling block. Writers- speak in public. Bad hair may be forgiven on occasion- but teeth are pretty much expected. Gaps kind of blow your credibility in addition to your smile.

On the rare occasion I’ve been honest about this fear-  the results haven’t been great. Mostly because of the whole  “Aren’t you a Christian- and if you trust God you shouldn’t be afraid of the dentist” thing. I’ve been: laughed at, told to: let  God handle this for me, Trust God more, Pray and ask God to heal me of my fear. And the ever popular: “Fear is the sin of lack of trust” condemnation comments. .. Yeah….thnx for heaping guilt on top of my already full emotional plate of humiliation and fear! I feel so much  better! Except, I don’t. Also?  I have asked God to grow new teeth…. but apparently that breaks the time space-continuum, so he voted no, to that. At least they didn’t grow in- so I’m guessing that’s the reason.

So, I had a choice: Go and get my teeth fixed, or continue to live in humiliation, fear and without a smile?

A few weeks ago I decided it was time. I asked my husband to make me an appointment, I went. Then, I had a follow up appointment- and I got an impression made… and TMI or not- I almost threw up. It sucked and I hated it- But, I went. And I will go again, tomorrow.

Tomorrow?  I will be having oral surgery.  I’m getting implants. (No, not the boob kind. duh, I have enough there.) The implants will replace my two missing teeth. It will involve bone grafts and some other work. I will be knocked out. (I”m bringing a hammer for backup anesthesia. Just in case.) I don’t want to do it.

But I do want to face the fear and conquer it. I want to smile again. I want to speak without feeling self conscious about my smile.

I’d love to say- God has taken my fear and I feel peace. He hasn’t. I am afraid.

But, I’m doing it anyway.

Maybe today- you are facing a fear. Or, like me, have been avoiding one. Maybe you’ve prayed and the teeth didn’t grow in. Maybe you’ve avoided making that appointment for a mammogram, or the dentist, or the ob/gyn because it makes you nauseous and sweaty and panicky. Maybe you have a phobic fear of flying, or needles, or dogs or heights. Maybe you’ve heard you wouldn’t be afraid if you trusted God more. Maybe you’ve chided yourself and reprimanded yourself for being a freak.

It doesn’t help.

There is only one way to get through fear- to go through it. Today as I get ready to face my fear- I’m praying for you….trust me, if I can do this- so can you!

Dear Lord- I’m afraid, I’m tired of avoiding the dentist and all that it entails. I’m tired of being embarrassed to smile, I want to show the joy I feel in my heart. (Well- when I’m not being afraid of the stupid dentist.)  I hate the dentist, Lord- but Im going to go anyway- please help me get through this- and help anyone else who’s facing a fear…. the only way through it- is through it….amen PS- Lord- thank you for all the fear filled men of courage in the bible… it helps to know I’m not alone!;) 

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear” Mark Twain