My teeth have always been my Achilles heel. They were naturally a bit yellow, and one of my front teeth was discolored and crooked thanks to a softball-to-the-face incident. As I grew older, my teeth bothered me more and more, to the point where my parents kindly paid for teeth whitening the summer before I went to college (a serious confidence-booster). When I was nineteen, I got braces to fix the crooked teeth, and was a model orthodontia patient because I wanted my braces off before I turned 21 (they came off with four days to spare).

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I may have been a model ortho patient, but my braces made it hard to floss. When my braces came off, I had my first-ever cavities. It was a crappy experience, and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t get more cavities. I did a pretty good job of it, although I still had a small cavity here and there. Then I got pregnant with Madeline…Annabel…the baby I miscarried…James…and all hell really broke loose with my teeth. I’ve talked about it before, but hyperemesis reeks total havoc on your teeth. You’re malnourished and have all that stomach acid in your mouth 20+ times a day, so it makes sense that your teeth suffer. I mean, my esophagus alone will never be the same.

All the hyperemesis boards I read gave tips about protecting your teeth but I couldn’t stand any of them. EVERYTHING made me throw up: mouthwash, fluoride rinses, and especially toothbrushes…I eventually had to choose between keeping food down and my teeth. I, of course, chose to keep my food down, because that affected my babies, but I did it with the knowledge that I’d have a LOT of dental work down the line.

Well, now I’m down the line, and it’s bad. Horrifying, even. I’m embarrassed to open my mouth. I hate smiling and showing my teeth. I have cavities all over and several of my teeth are cracked and deteriorating. I know I have extenuating circumstances but I am still so, so ashamed of my teeth. I’m thankful for my long-time dentist who knows about my medical history, but he has to send me out to specialists, and while they are extremely professional, they are always…disturbed…by the state of my mouth. Luckily they’ve always had dental assistants who are well-versed on hyperemesis, but it’s still so humbling to have to explain it to every new endodontist.

Yesterday was round three in “Fix What Hyperemesis Did To My Teeth.” I brought my iPod and my extreme-relaxation music, and the dental assistant rubbed my hand during the hard parts. It sucks and is crazy-expensive. I maxed out my dental deductible in January, but I promised myself I wouldn’t die of a tooth infection this year so Mike and I have been scrimping and saving everywhere we can. It’s literally going to take years for me to fix the damage, and I’m trying to be at peace with that. Every time I go in to get more work done I remind myself – over the drill on my teeth – that these kids were worth it.

But ugh.