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How the Tooth Fairy saved the day!

Updated: May 6

» Rituals have a way of mediating the grief process without us getting in the way «


I booked in an emergency appointment to the dentist recently - my top back tooth had been sensitive for some weeks, but it wasn't until the pain struck that I booked in; tooth pain is something that one can't easily escape from.

Not being one to use pain killers, I went for the old remedies of cloves to anesthetize the pain (it works to a degree!!) and coconut oil to sweep my mouth clean as much as possible while I waited for my dentist appointment - the earliest one I could get was three days away.

After those three days of largely sleepless nights, I was ready for the intervention of a dentist. I am of the generation where primary schools had their own dental clinics, only they were nic-named 'murder clinics' back then. While I didn't have any fillings as a kid, the name and the anxiety is still part of my wall-paper of experience. I braced myself for the inevitable filling that I was bound to have.

Only, the dentist took one look at my tooth and said; You have no choice; the tooth has to come out.

I froze.

I can't recall if I froze over the prospect of losing my tooth, or the fact that she said I had no choice.

I think it was the fact that I had no choice.

I tried to remedy my freeze by asking questions; what are my options? (you have none!) What are the alternatives? (there are none!) What do I need to know beforehand? (I will tell you afterwards).

At this point I was teary and starting to feel quite desperate. "What questions should I be asking you at this point so that I am informed?" I asked. To which my (now former) dentist replied "Are you questioning my authority?" and then proceeded to tell me all her qualifications and years of experience. She even added that I was now wasting her time.

Perhaps if this hadn't been so triggering for me, I might have seen a choice-point here, to walk out and get a second opinion. But pain and a long (collective) history of fawning to authority meant I collapsed, tears in my eyes, and said 'go ahead'. "Don't worry, it will not hurt" she said reassuringly "I have done this a thousand times".

True enough, it did not hurt, her technical skills are likely second-to-none in tooth extraction. 

I left. Taking the extracted tooth with me. It was ugly, large and black at the root.

While my mind could rationalise the scenario that had just played out, admitting how my negligence had contributed (created) this whole scene, this rational could not meet my felt experience; my body-self felt violated. 

It reaffirmed for me that when we are in a situation where an authority figure uses a power-over relationship, and consent is not freely given, it opens up the door for past traumas (or disempowerments) to emerge.

I felt tender and ready to burst into tears when I arrived home to my family. My 7 year old son wanted to see my tooth and became very excited that the tooth fairy would be visiting our home that night!!

I showed him the rotted tooth, telling him the tooth fairy wouldn't want a tooth like that and I doubt we'd get a visit.

But my son was adamant; Of Course The Tooth Fairy Will Want Your Tooth! 

My son set about making a box for the tooth, added some small crystals and wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy (as is our custom). He then put the little box under my pillow and told me to wake him up if I heard anything during the night. 

After he fell asleep, I asked my partner to be my tooth fairy. We have a custom of leaving a sweet little card with an affirming life message, some (different) crystals and a couple of coins. I told my partner I felt like I needed to hear the words; You are perfect just the way you are. And to add that somewhere in the Toothfairy package.

The next morning, with my son delightfully saying "I Told You The Tooth Fairy Would Come!", I read the card. 

Even though I'd given my partner a little prescription of what I wanted to hear, the words You are perfect just the way you are touched my heart, my body, my spirit with such a resounding impact, that I felt both joyful and sad in the very same moment. 

I recognised in that moment, the ritual that we'd made was the healing that I needed. All the locked energy, the anguish and disempowerment around my lack of choice and consent in that moment transmuted and I found myself being able to connect with my son at his level of belief and wonder. What a magic tooth fairy we have I said.

I get it now - why the tooth fairy ritual is so important to our children as they lose their precious little baby teeth. My child goes through a clingy regressive state each time his tooth gets wobbly, and when the tooth is finally out, there is a known ritual and celebration built into the fabric of loss that he recognises, cherishes and now can even hold for others.

And if we extrapolate this to other areas of our life where we incur loss, it is these rituals that have grown out of our need for honouring what has happened, acknowledging the loss, and also holding the door open for a little magic to be built in, that have always and traditionally been built into our cultural practices. We have an inbuilt capacity to recognise what we need and reproduce it when the conditions necessitate.

That was a missing experience for me; I didn't grow up with the wonder and magic of the tooth fairy, (nor any other rituals to acknowledge my losses) but I get it, I totally get why preserving (or creating) rituals is essential to how we, in our own nuanced way, can heal from these seemingly insignificant losses.

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