Do your visits to the dentist come with a heaping side of judgment?
I went to the dentist the other day for my yearly check up. And I got a nice long lecture about The Importance of Flossing.
Let me say up front, I quite like my hygienist. She’s friendly and efficient.
But I am not a big fan of the floss-related disapproval.
Firstly, I am already well-versed in The Importance of Flossing. I mean, are there people walking around in the world today who DON’T know about Flossing and All Its Toothly Benefits? Because I’m pretty sure I started getting the stern Floss Talk way back when I was a wee one.
Did I listen? No, of course not. Maybe you, Internet, have a pristine history of sterling dental hygiene habits. I was always a good brusher, but I hated flossing. (Partly because my teeth are widely spaced in the front of my mouth, which renders flossing useless, and crowded together like Harry Potter fans crushing to get the best seats at a midnight showing in the back, which renders floss broken. I know, excuses, excuses.)
HOWEVER, lest you think that I am recommending a devil-may-care flossing attitude, there is a Dire Moral to this story of flossing recklessness. Many years ago, my combined bad habits of under flossing and over brushing (who knew there was such a thing as OVER BRUSHING?) resulted in some horrific procedure known as gum planing. (No, not “gum planning,” Word. PLANING. It is so a word – stop underlining it.)
Ever since that day, I have been a flossing superstar. Except when I’m traveling. Which has been too often lately.
Erm, where was I? Oh yes.
I already KNOW that I should floss regularly. And I do, normally. So the lecture was stupid.
Secondly, I’m pretty sure there’s a way to tell a patient that she needs to be doing something without wagging a (metaphorical) shaming finger in her face. Maybe shame is a good motivator for you. All it motivates me to do is dislike the shamer.
Thirdly, it’s especially unfair to lecture someone – about something she KNOWS – when you are scraping her teeth with a sharp metal teeth-scraping implement and she cannot respond in comprehensible language, let alone MOVE lest you jab her in the gum. (Gum. Is that right? Can you make it singular like that, or is it always “gums”?)
The whole thing is just plain humiliating. I mean, it’s bad enough that you’re lying there, immobilized by gum-jabbing-induced terror. But you’ve got a big old paper bib strapped to your chest like you’re some giant baby. And the hygienist is scraping TEETH GOO out of your teeth. Mouth-type things that I try at all costs to pretend into non-existence. And instead of hurrying the goo discreetly out of sight, the hygienist WIPES IT ON YOUR BIB. The bib that you must continue to wear – TEETH GOO leaping grotesquely into your peripheral view – for the whole rest of the humiliating visit.
Then the dentist comes in to… what? Look at the hygienist’s handiwork? Just kidding. He comes in to review the x-rays and jab at your teeth with a tooth-jabbing tool and decide whether or not you need a filling or a root canal or gum planing. And the whole time, you’re lying there, your mouth gaping open, with your unmentionable TEETH GOO on display.
Isn’t that ENOUGH humiliation, Internet? Does the hygienist need to pile on a sternly-worded lecture as well?
By the way, I was wondering the other day about whether my dentist (or any dentist, really) actually hates dirty teeth. I mean, it’s unlikely that anyone really ENJOYS dirty teeth, you know? But maybe dentists are particularly put off by them. My dentist never even SEES teeth until they’ve been thoroughly scraped and polished and buffed to a toothpaste-model sheen. He always pokes and prods at my teeth and says, “Beautiful! These are beautiful teeth!” (which makes me flush with pleasure, because, come on, how often do you get a compliment like THAT?). But I wonder, if he saw my teeth pre-hygienist, would he be disgusted? Plaque! Ack!
You know what else I was wondering? Whether the dental staff disinfects the little sucker tube they use to suck out plaque chunks (does anyone else want to barf about now?) and excess spit and such. They MUST, right? But… what if they don’t?
These are the kind of thoughts that are prompting me to leave the house less and less.
Oh yes, I had a point to this post. (Well, a “point.”) And, since I suspect that you don’t visit this little blog to read about my teeth goo, I shall now get to that point. (“Point.”)
When the dentist had finished praising my beautiful teeth, he noted that a couple of my molars are worn down.
“Looks like you grate your teeth,” he told me. Which made me cringe, because teeth grating is right up there with fingernails catching on fabric and knives squeaking on plates and Ke$ha in terms of horrible sounds.
Teeth grating, it seems, is my body’s new choice of stress outlet. Good times. Apparently, it can cause neck and back tension and severe headaches. Plus, if left unchecked, you can grind your teeth so much that they BREAK. Needless to say, I was pretty eager for a solution.
The solution? A mouth guard.
Which meant that I have to wear a mouth guard. Like, every night. Plus, I had to go to the dentist two days in a row.
The second day, I woke up early and left early so I wouldn’t be late. I don’t drive much, especially at rush-hour-type times of day, so I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get there. Turns out, it only took 15 minutes. So I had 15 minutes to wait in the waiting room.
The receptionist told me that I should take a seat and make myself a cup of coffee. Yay! Fifteen whole minutes to read Discovery of Witches and drink free coffee from the little one-cup Keurig in the waiting room.
But once I fixed myself a cup of coffee (I don’t even LIKE coffee, Internet), I realized that there was no way I could DRINK it. How could I have coffee breath when the hygienist was going to be all up in my face? That just seems rude.
Anyway, I held a full cup of coffee in the waiting room while I read (this book is taking me FOREVER), and then carried it back to the exam room with me.
There, the hygienist set me up in the lifty chair, secured a paper bib around my neck, filled a little plastic mold with gooey acrylic, and fit it onto my front teeth. Goo got all over my lips. (That’s another thing I hate about the dentist. With hands and x-ray plates and scraping tools in and out of your mouth, a lot of saliva gets flung around. There is almost nothing worse in the whole world than having someone floss your teeth for you whilst rubbing a saliva-coated hand-heel all over your chin.) Then she waited until the acrylic hardened. Then she pulled the mouth guard out of my mouth, shaved it with one of her tooth-tools, put it back in, pulled it out, shaved it with one of her tooth-tools, put it back in, over and over and over until I thought she was going to rip my two front teeth right out of my head.
But eventually she got it shaved to the perfect balance between de-toothifyingly tight and choke-you-while-you-sleep loose. She told me that I may take it out while I’m asleep and that I may wake up and not be able to “find my bite,” which sounds kind of terrifying and oddly vampiric, but that everything would be okay.
As I was modeling the mouth guard one last time, showing the hygienist my bite and trying in vain to clamp my back teeth together, I joked, “My husband is going to make fun of me tonight!”
The hygienist removed the little square mouth guard, perfectly molded to my teeth, and plopped it into a tiny little glow-in-the-dark box.
“Yes, he is,” she said.