Dear Tooth No. 3: I’m sorry things got so out of control. You know how life is. People get busy. With Glee, Chuck, and P90X, it was hard for me to give you the time you needed. I’m sorry about my Diet Mountain Dew addiction. I’m sorry I neglected to floss you for days on end. (Okay, weeks.) But most of all, I’m sorry I took you to the dentist.

I promise. It hurt me as much as it hurt you.

I knew what would happen when I took you in. The dentist would see the smile and think all was well. You’re decently white, and I do appreciate that you’ve never put me through the awkwardness of braces. If you’re a little crooked, I find your imperfections endearing. But the dentist discovered the truth just as I did after the honeymoon stage had worn off. You’re weak, and you lack enamel.

The dentist asked me questions about how I treated you. We discussed things in our relationship that could be improved. He said a lot of comforting things, really. But then he paused and said something horrible: “We’ll just do a bunch of fillings and go from there.”

“A bunch?” I asked. “How many is a bunch?”

“Ten.”

Listen, we’re both adults here. You had to know there were others. Granted, you probably didn’t know exactly how many others. But there was no need for you to react the way you did. I thought the appointment would alleviate all our problems. Instead, it only exacerbated them. It just got so bad. That’s when I decided to hurt you before you could hurt me. Luckily, the dentist was on my side.

A week later, with a smile on my lips, I sauntered into the dentist’s office seeking vengeance. As I settled into the chair, I could tell you were scared. And that made me happy.

“Wanna see what he looks like with all those old fillings out?” the dentist asked, shoving a mirror into my hands.

“Not really.”

“Oh, c’mon!”

And there you were: naked, hollow, rotted. But even seeing you so vulnerable didn’t change the way I felt about you. After three hours of probing, prodding, and drilling (very reminiscent of our first date), I was elated to be through with you. I went home thinking we were over. I threw out everything that reminded me of you: a half-empty bottle of Listerine, a barely used container of floss. In my mind, you were gone.

I should’ve known that it wouldn’t be that easy. I thought taking you to the dentist would make me feel better. I was wrong. And slowly but surely, you came back into my life. After the third day of your hounding my every thought, I could take it no more. “I’ve seen this before,” the dentist said. “I’m calling something into the pharmacy. Take it twice a day, and I’ll see you on Saturday.”

I didn’t even ask what he was prescribing for me. All I knew was that it was a pill, and it would help get rid of you. As I picked up the meds, the kind pharmacist looked at my swollen, red eyes and was cautious.

“Are you, um, allergic to amoxicillin?” she asked, holding the bag too protectively.

“I have no idea,” I whimpered. “I just need to dull the pain.”

In just a few days, you turned me into a druggie. I was popping pills of all brands and doses, bumming painkillers off friends, and walking through the office in a stupor. Then came the rash—an allergic reaction to amoxicillin.

By Saturday, I’d had enough. I was ready to take that last desperate measure.

“Will you just make sure he doesn’t feel any pain?” I asked the man as he looked at old X-rays of you. “I want it to be quick, clean.”

“Sure. It’ll be fine. He’ll never bother you again. But it’s going to be awhile before I can complete the job,” he said nonchalantly. “We’ll hook you up with some Vicodin to get you through the next couple of weeks.”

As I walked out into the lobby, I couldn’t help but think about the decision I’d just made. I knew a root canal was what I wanted, but I wondered if it was really the right thing to do. As I grappled with my conscience, suddenly there appeared the weekend root canal guy. It was as if he had descended from the heavens. I swear there was a glow surrounding him. He looked at me as he removed a latex glove. Then he looked at you while running his hands through his wavy hair. And he said something I’ll never forget: “You don’t need a root canal. You just need time.”

Time. That’s it. Just like any long-term relationship, ours had hit a rough patch, and we just needed to wait it out. Sure, we had a few more hiccups, but in the end, you and I are just fine. We’re gonna make it, Tooth No. 3. After all, we did promise to stay together for better or for worse. I know things will work out.

If not, there’s always Vicodin.

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