Road to dental wisdom is paved with speed bumps, tarter

Note: This column appears in the 11/11 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 11/12 issue of the Peoria Times

One advantage of living in the middle of the hurricane that is fatherhood is the ability to more easily put off certain burdens, like going to the dentist. When I considered the stark reality, however, that putting it off further will only make it worse when I actually do go, I decided to make an appointment.

I have been repaying the carelessness of my youthful lack of dental hygiene—I rebelled against my own braces—throughout my adult life. For example, I have been forced to wear a mouth guard at night, every night, for the rest of my life. Apparently, I rather forcefully grind my teeth at night, a habit that is no doubt a form of relief at the subconscious stress I feel towards dentistry in general.

I repented long ago, and have since committed to brushing twice per day, flossing and using mouthwash. I also, sans for this latest procrastination, go to the dentist every six months. This penance has somewhat backfired, as I discovered during this most recent appointment that I am brushing my teeth too hard, and my gum line is thus receding dramatically. Fantastic. According to my dentist, I have the gum line of a 95-year old hockey player.

I have yet to endure a standard dental check-up that proceeds smoothly, despite my best efforts. Last year I was informed that I have five wisdom teeth! I am a modern miracle of science. Also, my wisdom teeth need to come out. During my last visit the office provided me an estimate of the cost of having my wisdom teeth removed with insurance, and let’s just say that I’ll be enjoying my surplus of wisdom for the foreseeable future, or at least until these teeth produce a kind of pain that hurts more than the thought of paying to have them removed.

Luckily for me, Arizona has more dentists per capita than cacti, so it was not difficult to find a dentist upon moving here. Settling on one has proved more difficult, as I continue to search for a dentist who will tell me that everything looks great. I do enjoy, however, being assessed by various dentists and their assistants as they use their own dental Morse code. Several times I have found myself reclined in the chair, mouth wide open as the dentist inspects. I then attempt to translate things like, “Alright, we got a ‘6’ on ’21,’ an ‘89’ on ’17,’ and let’s see here…wow, looks like, yep—a ‘code red’ on ‘4.’ I repeat: ‘Code red’ on ‘4.’”

Nothing fazes me anymore. I just sit in the dentist’s chair reading People Magazine and wait to hear the bad news. Last week, after the dental assistant deemed it would be too difficult to remove the tarter from teeth with only a hand tool, I became one of the first patients at their office to experience the TarterTron 6000. It felt…unusual! It removed all of my tarter and my most of my senses.

I go back on Friday. I have two cavities to be filled, and one of them is an old filling that leaked. It’s going to be the best day ever! Until the gum surgery, of course.

My daughter will not make the same mistakes I made. That is why we brush all seven of her teeth every night. She better not need braces, or these wisdom teeth are never coming out.


Bill said…
"Dental plan! Lisa needs braces! Dental plan! Lisa needs braces!"

Sorry, mind wandered a bit there. Great article - I too still have my wisdom teeth, and have heard of the ironic danger of brushing too hard. I've been lucky enough that the wisdom teeth don't bother me, so I plan on just leaving them in forever. But I look forward to being gumless by age 40.

Good luck on Friday, hopefully it's as painless tooth-wise and wallet-wise, as possible.
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