What an Evil Dentist Taught Me About Mindfulness


It’s Face Your Fear Week on Sage Grayson Coaching. I’m sharing posts about confronting your fears so you can live your happiest, most-authentic life.

Today we’re talking about one of the most popular fears—going to the dentist!

When I was 11 years old, I feared the dentist more than most kids. You see, I had really crooked teeth.

Like totally JACKED UP.

My front teeth stuck out at a weird angle, and I couldn’t even close my lips around them. I looked like Bugs Bunny…well, until I chipped a tooth in a playground incident with my older brother. Then my smile looked just like Lloyd’s from Dumb and Dumber.

I hated my teeth, and I hated them being poked and prodded. But it was obvious that I needed braces. My orthodontist, Dr. Jones, was probably a sweet old man. I mean, as sweet as you can be with kids crying and biting your fingers all day.

But to me, he was the evilest person in the world.

Since this was the early ‘90s, orthodontic options were somewhat limited. The braces Dr. Jones put on me were like something out of my worst nightmare.

The metal bands wrapped all the way around my teeth. I had a metal spacer across the roof of my mouth to widen my jaw. I had 4 rubber bands. But worst of all was the headgear.

Needless to say, I was not a popular kid.

And every month I’d go back to Dr. Jones to have my braces tightened. Imagine washing your favorite jeans, putting them in the dyer on high so they shrink 2 sizes, and then stuffing yourself back into them. Now imagine that tightness on your teeth.

Yep, it was torture.

Whenever I’m going through a particularly awful time in my life, I always find one beacon of hope and hold on to it for dear life. I had braces for 3 and a half years, so I needed something to make it bearable.

When Dr. Jones crammed his dental instruments and fingers into my mouth with such force that I was choking back my screams, I was desperate for something—anything—to distract me from the pain.

My salvation came in the form of…hot air balloons.

On the wall opposite the dental chair was a painting of hot air balloons flying over a city. It was peaceful and serene, something my visits to the orthodontist were not.

I found myself staring at one particular rainbow colored balloon. Everything else that was going on (the pulling, the drilling) faded away, and there was just me and the balloon.

At that moment, I was in the basket feeling the wind in my hair, flying high above all my problems. Nothing could touch me.

My breathing slowed. My body relaxed. I could get through this.

This type of mindfulness is something I use often in my life. Mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment and not being concerned about what has happened in the past or what might occur in the future.

There’s beauty and wonder right in from of you, from the coffee in your mug to the blades of grass outside your window. When I modeled in college, I used mindfulness to meditate on where I was right then…usually while fixating on a mark on the wall.

Because when you think about it, the past and the future don’t exist.

All we have is this moment.

I might have looked a little crazy staring at one spot on that painting, but Dr. Jones often complimented me on how calm and still I was during my appointments.

I was his best patient.

How can you use mindfulness in your life?

Sometime today, pause for 5 minutes and focus all your attention on the present moment.

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Comments

  1. says

    I had braces at a young age–thankfully it was in 2000 so no headgear! I think that was a good strategy that the orthodontist used, to have paintings that would remind his patients of a little bit of beauty in a very unpleasant experience.

  2. says

    Ahhhh yes I remember that feeling all too well! I remember when I first got my braces on and within hours it was the worst pain. How smart of you to utilize mindfulness in this way, a perfect way to make an unpleasant experience much more bearable. I tend to practice mindfulness in times if extreme stress or frustration. Since it usually occurs at work and I sit in a corner and have nothing to look at, I actually have my favorite songs going through my head. I zone out from the aggravation and connect to something that makes me happy. It isn’t foolproof but it definitely helps :)

    • says

      Braces were the worst! I actually got braces for a second time a few years ago, but they were just clear plastic trays that popped on and off. Back in the 90s it was like a torture device!

      I love your idea of using songs to be mindful! Focusing on anything good in your life can take the sting out of all the stress and aggravation we have to deal with. I’m going to have to try that with some of my favorite songs.. :)

  3. says

    This is so cool, I’m actually reading a book on mindfulness in regards to childbirth and it’s fascinating! I can see it applying to many aspects of life though – but I hope it’s useful to me in a couple of months, lol.

    • says

      Awesome! What’s the name of the book? Being mindful in the present moment helps me get through tough situations. I can totally see how that would be important during the birthing process. I’d love to hear what you learn about mindfulness and if it helps you. :)

  4. says

    I love this! It brings back so many memories of going to the dentist and the orthodontist. I used to hate it as well. Now, going to the dentist is still not my favorite thing in the whole world, but I have learned how to “enjoy” it more. One, I get to lay down and rest for about 30 minutes! I love a little rest time in the middle of the day. Two, I now imagine that I’m getting a massage for my teeth. Somehow, this makes everything a little less painful. And three, if it does hurt, I just tell them that something hurts and they are good about listening and being more gentle. For me, mindfulness and being in the present moment is all about focusing on the good instead of the bad in that moment. If you can find one good thing to think about in the moment, then you’ll likely enjoy it more!

    • says

      I know so many people who have horror stories about the orthodontist! :( Haha, I never thought about it, but going to the dentist is a great way to get off you feet for a while. A massage for your teeth–I’m going to have to remember that. :)

      You’re absolutely right. There’s good and bad in every moment, and we get to choose what part we focus on. We’re more in control than we think.

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