Friday, August 27, 2010

Say ahhhh.

I have never been one to be afraid of the dentist. My mom was always very diligent at taking us to the dentist every six months when we were younger. For as long as I can remember, I had my teeth cleaned by the very same hygienist, K. and then examined by the dentist, Dr. J. After the whole ordeal, they allowed me to select a "prize" from the bucket. You know, for not crying. It usually was a jumbo pencil or a tinny ring of some variety. No matter, that prize made my day. Perhaps my lack of fear was due to the fact that I never had a cavity. In fact, to this very day, I have no cavities in my mouth. Tartar? Yes. Plaque? Sure. In fact, the scrapings I have received in my day made me wonder if brushing my teeth had any effect whatsoever.

K was a rather thorough hygienist. Bleeding gums were a common occurrence. I got used to the fact that in order to get my prize, I would have to bear down and let this woman scrape my teeth with a brute force that I was sure rivaled that of the Hulk. Ow. After the fluoride treatment, I wold grab my prize and be on my way. "Look Ma! No cavities again!" High five to Mom for the good genes and the hard enamel on my teeth.

Of course, due to being a rather vigorous thumb-sucker in my youth, I had developed a wicked overbite. In fact, the kids once thought it funny to call me "Bugs Bunny" back in the day. Meanies. Therefore, I had the orthodontic experience (I have blocked the wearing of the head gear...yikes) to remove the overbite and straighten out my teeth. Later, they chose to remove my wisdom teeth, giving my first experience with anesthesia. Not a good one, I promise. However, despite the poking, stretching and cutting that took place in my mouth, I always went back to and liked the same hygienist and dentist.

I saw K and Dr. J until I was twenty-five years old. At that point, I got my first job and was expected to provide my own insurance. Oh. I didn't get health insurance at my first job. And the prospect of finding a dentist in Chicago was very daunting. I'd never had cavities, so I figured I was good. I'd get around to it later. Yeah. THREE YEARS later. I finally had a job with dental insurance. I got a recommendation from a coworker (oh, thanks, P.I.C.) and bravely crossed the doors of my new dentist, Dr. S. If you ever have returned to a dentist after a long hiatus, you know how terrifying that very first appointment back is. Mostly because you are about to get a major tongue-lashing as to the importance of regular visits. There is also the fear of cavities and potential follow up visits including fillings and whatnot. Never having had a cavity or a filling, I was terrified that I would have to endure my first filling. (Hey, I avoided finding this out for three years. My fear was palpable to me at least.)

That first visit back wasn't so bad. Dr. S did my cleaning himself as his hygienist was off on Fridays. He did scold me gently, but it was something that I'd deserved. His assistant took x-rays and a verdict was in: No cavities! Still. He chided me again, "Now you have very nice teeth, so make sure you make another appointment today for your next cleaning and exam." Sure enough, I booked my six month cleaning and was on my way. Turns out, Dr. S wasn't so bad. On my next visit, I got to meet his hygienist. She was the nicest woman to ever clean my teeth. No blood and no pain. It was a miracle.

I have been regularly now since that first visit and have yet to have a cavity. Granted, I had to experience a different hygienist yesterday whom I am relatively certain was angry at my mouth. A water pik AND the scraping. AND multiple flossings? My mouth still hurts. Ow. It was like being in K's chair all over again. I remembered what it was like to bear down for the cleaning. Yet I survived. No tears!

Of course, the prizes nowadays include travel toothpastes, a toothbrush and some dental floss. That doesn't mean I don't open the bag and check to make sure that the hygienist was conscientious of the fact that I am a GIRL and put an appropriate-colored toothbrush in there. Purple? Oh yeah. That works. She might have assaulted my mouth, but at least I was appropriately compensated for my endurance.


  1. haaaa! this totally reminds me that i haven't been to the dentist in over a year. and i know that when i go they will tell me i need my wisdom teeth out. but being preggers means maybe i won't have to get them out for awhile? either way i feel nervous because i HAVE had cavities before and i have a suspicious feeling i one now too. awesome. good job on having excellent dental hygiene!

  2. Um, I haven't been to the dentist in...wait for it... SEVEN YEARS. I have dental guilt. I mean, I brush my teeth twice a day, floss regularly, and use listerine.

    I tried to make an appointment once with someone on my approved list for my PPO, but they only let you request appointments via email and no one ever emailed me back. WTF?

    I also think I'm developing gum problems from smoking. I'm going to be like people from Appalachia in approximately two years.

  3. My fears of the dentist are slightly different. Meaning, when I actually have to go, it means going to my dad's office where he used to make me wear a shirt that said "I love my Dentist, he's my daddy" when I was younger. I used to get grounded for cavities or not flossing. Nowadays it just means that the hygienist and other people there have known me since I was a baby and start asking me questions about my love life, when I'm getting married, why I haven't met anyone yet, etc. That's even scarier than the thought of getting a shot of Novocaine.

    @Faux Trixie - Gross. Go to the dentist.

  4. @uncorked I feel guilty enough. Don't make me fall deeper into my shame spiral.

  5. I remember the judgemental looks and lectures I got from my new dentist when I was in my 20's and, like you, had experienced a big gap between being covered by my parent's plans and then eventually finding a job that had a dental plan. And the first cleaning was so brutal! - G