The Dentist and Me (A Parable of Sorts)

In May I went to the dentist for the first time in about five years. Yes, I know I should have gone more regularly in the past. I have a lot of excuses, including some good ones like the moving around we have done and the occasional lack of dental insurance. I didn't think that skipping the dentist would be a big deal because I've had good teeth for most of my life. I also floss and brush every day and I don't drink soda, coffee, or tea.

Well, after spending a very long time in the dentist's chair that day I learned a few things. I had several small cavities between my teeth. I also had to endure a deep cleaning of my teeth and gums to get off the stuff that had built up during my years without regular cleanings. Apparently I have been experiencing both periodontitis and gum recession. The dentist sent me away with special medicinal mouthwash and an appointment in a few weeks to fill my cavities. The appointment for my fillings was definitely the worst experience I've had in a while. About an hour into it I decided that I'd rather have another c-section than spend two hours reclined back in a chair with my mouth propped open while two people dig around in it.

Last month I went back for another follow-up about my gums and some more cleaning. I'm switching to a sensitive toothpaste and I've been trying to avoid crunchy and sticky foods because my whole mouth feels sore right now. Apparently the soreness is normal and will resolve itself as my gums heal, but I might always have some sensitivity in my teeth. I have another appointment in six weeks to see how things are progressing.

After my first appointment when I learned about all the things wrong with my mouth, I felt really depressed for a while. It wasn't even the cost or hassle of the dental treatment, it was the fact that I felt like I had failed. Why didn't I have 'good teeth' any more? Yes, I'd been somewhat neglectful by not going to the dentist, but they told me that a lot of what has happened in my mouth has simply been the effects of getting older, having children, and having my body change. I realized that I felt bad about my mouth because I had spent a long time assuming that I was just the kind of person who had good teeth. The problem with that thinking is that when my teeth had problems, I assumed that changed what kind of person I was. I was one of 'those people' who had to have dental work because they weren't 'good'. It seems silly now that I have processed the feelings and made them conscious, but I'm glad I noticed my thought process and realized what some of my unconscious biases were. I'm also learning that maybe mouthwash isn't so bad after all.


Desmama said…
This makes me think I probably ought to head in for a dental checkup as well since, like you, I've neglected it because I've always had "good teeth."

I, too, noticed that when I hit 30 a few years back (smile) my body definitely starting to change (not in happy ways) so I guess it stands to reason that my teeth would change too, like you pointed out.
rantipoler said…
JC and I had almost the exact same experience, only ours both ended in root canals and crowns. My experience made me ponder on the ridiculousness of not offering people dental insurance (which is why we hadn't been for a long time). Why have insurance companies determined that that one part of our bodies doesn't need looking after?!
Earth Sign Mama said…
Something about pregnancy has a deleterious effect on our teeth. My mom complained that for each child, she lost a tooth. Regular cleanings are important. And even if one doesn't have a supplementary payment recourse, most dentists will work with you for payments. We had no dental insurance for the first third of our marriage, but we made an arrangement for the payments.
Kristi said…
Yeah, I haven't been to the dentist in a while. Mine didn't seem too concerned about my teeth, praising me for growing up outside of Utah and having fluoride in my water, so I have fabulous teeth.

Maybe I should find a new dentist and go. It's just such a hassle - at least as long as I keep on thinking, "I have good teeth." Sigh. Do you like your dentist?
FoxyJ said…
Kristi--we're really happy with this dental office. I went to another one that I didn't like as much so we switched. It's called Canyon Gate dental on 800 North in Orem
Chillygator said…
I end up at the dentist about once every three months, apparently nothing fights genetics. I recently had my sixth or seventh root canal, so I feel like I might be a pro.

Usually I get the laughing gas -- which puts me to sleep practically before they start, pop in some ear buds, and have them put a block in to keep my mouth open without me having to make ny effort.

I still don't love the visits, but at least I know I'll be having a quarterly nap.

If nothing else, next time you're having work done, ask for a mouth block.

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