Dental Disasters

I went to the dentist yesterday. I hadn’t been to the dentist in over a year and a half. Not good. When you’re moving from one insurance plan to another, and trying to graduate at the same time, scheduling a dental check-up is not high on the list of priorities. Well, IT SHOULD BE.

All was normal as I entered the waiting room. I filled out the necessary forms, then watched as a rather large man, wearing shorts that didn’t quite fit him, bent over the desk and bugged the blonde receptionist for entirely too long. Across from me, an old lady sat flipping through a copy of People. Apparently Prince George is celebrating his first birthday. I congratulated myself yet again for flossing the night before, and for brushing my teeth right before I left my apartment. Finally, my name was called, the little napkin was attached around my neck, and the doctor walked in.

She poked around for a minute before declaring, “You’ve got cavities.” She said this casually, as though I already knew. Well, I didn’t know for sure, but I suspected that those brown spots on my molars were up to no good.

“Yeah, you’ve got a few. Twelve.”

Twelve cavities?! The words hit me, but they didn’t sink in.

My mind immediately flicks to the case of Diet Vernors sitting in my fridge. I think of that old crazy friend, Allison, who used to make me watch videos on YouTube where Diane Sawyer went around poor communities in the Appalachian Mountains, interviewing children whose teeth had rotted from drinking too much Mountain Dew. Had it come to this?

“Is there… is there any reason in particular that there are so many?” I asked, still in denial.

“No, not really. Just think — you’re 23, right? And you’ve had these teeth since you were six. So that’s 17 years of chewing food. Think of a car. All cars, even a nice one like a BMW, are going to have problems after a while.”

At 23, it seems a bit weird that my teeth would go ahead and just give up on me. If they’re acting up this much already, then what the hell are they going to be like in my 30s? Did my teeth decide that since I work in a library and I’m in a long-term relationship, that there’s really just no point anymore?

“So, twelve. Six on each side. You can come back and I’ll do one side. We’ll save the other six for a separate appointment. The good news is that you only have to be numbed once on each side.”

The good news, huh? As I blinked through the sunglasses, peering up at the bright light, I wondered what it was going to feel like getting six cavities filled in one session.

“Ok. So I’ll do the cleaning now, and then we’ll get you scheduled for a follow-up appointment next week.”

She proceeded to vigorously clean my teeth (they deserved it). I was not given water to rinse with, but rather mouthwash (anything to stave off further decay, I suppose). I made my way out of the room, and a dental assistant abruptly handed me a toothbrush. Every other time I’ve gone to the dentist, I’ve gotten a hefty goodie bag. Not this time. Why even bother giving the girl with 12 cavities some floss? It’s not like she’s going to use it.

I picked up my bag, signed my name on the line agreeing to pay for 12 cavity fillings — a bill that, even with insurance, added up to more than my monthly rent — and floated back downstairs to the street where I waited for the bus.

I sat there wondering how I’d gotten to this point. I used to take such pride in my teeth. In fact, I’ve only had one cavity up until now, and it was a teensy tiny one that the dentist said wasn’t my fault. I’m used to sitting in that chair and opening my mouth and hearing the exclamation, “Wow! You have beautiful teeth!” The first time I had braces, I whipped out that irritating little floss threader and meticulously cleaned between each bracket every single night. Where did that dedication go? Was it when I was told that I was going to have to endure a second set of braces? Was it when I chipped my two front teeth in an otherwise lame hockey match as a sophomore? Was it when the lady at the hospital warned me never to drink coffee again, and to drink all liquids except water with a straw, because they would permanently stain my caps? Was it with the arrival of the Vernors? Or did I just let it slide, along with part of my A-type personality?

I’ve been floating around in this cavity-induced, pseudo-exististential crisis for the past 24 hours. Changes ahead. No more Vernors. Switching from coffee to strong black Kenyan tea. Nightly flossing will resume.

As for the 12 fillings? Well, I’ll just have to let you know how that goes.


16 thoughts on “Dental Disasters

  1. Nice teeth grandma! I hate going to the dentist too. I’m not scared of pain or anything, I’m just worried they’ll judge me! My dentist is really hot so its even worse letting her see my crooked teeth 😦 its like a reenactment of Beauty and The Beast every time I go for a checkup. Luckily my optician is hideous 🙂

  2. I so hate going to the dentist. This is my worst nightmare come true. Honestly though, sometimes I think it doesn’t matter how well you take care of your teeth… some of us are just predisposed. I know someone that NEVER brushes their teeth or flosses, smokes AND drinks coffee (yeah, ew), and he has never had a cavity. Um…say what???

    1. Yeah, I always thought that I WASN’T predisposed, cuz I’ve had good teeth up until now. Guess the golden age is over! I don’t actually hate going to the dentist, but I hate the phone so it takes me months to make a basic appointment.

    1. She’s a pretty nice dentist! One of the best ones in the U.S., apparently! (According to a sign in the waiting room. Not sure if that can be trusted). I just hope I’ll be functional at work next Thursday afternoon haha. I can see it being weird!

  3. I have not been to the dentist for so long, and I understand about coverage. Being in school I still have coverage so I need to go soon before I graduate. However, I try to maintain my teeth so I don’t have to go often. Sorry to hear about your experience!!! :

    1. Yes, go to the dentist ASAP! I made the mistake of not going to the dentist before I graduated. And then I lost my dental coverage for a couple of months, and then I had new dental coverage but my dentist was an hour away… excuses, excuses! I (clearly!) should have buckled down & made an appointment!

  4. I’m so sorry to hear about the shock of yesterday’s visit! I’m sure that you’ll be super vigilant from this point on, and that things will get better/stabilize as you get older. I have had a rocky history with dentists and my teeth…for cultural and personal reasons my mother never trusted and thus avoided dentists (because of her past experiences in China), so I never got good dental care growing up. I’m so careful with my own son now, and I get him in there every 6 mos. for his check-ups. 10.5 years and no cavities so far…fingers crossed, because he has a sweet tooth! Good luck to you!

    1. Thank you, Cecilia! Yes, my rigorous dental routine has already been restored! I’m very glad you take your son to the dentist every six months. It’s quite an accomplishment to keep a child & teen free of cavities!

  5. Oh geez, this reminds me of when I was in college and law school and didn’t go to the dentist for….ummm (red in the face)…six years! I went through much the same scenario you just went through. Luckily, I have not had any new cavities since that fateful visit many years ago. I always tell myself I will cut back on coffee after a dental visit, but the truth is, it’s never gonna happen! 🙂

    1. Six years! Well, that makes me feel a bit better. I had one last decadent cappuccino today. My coffee stores were running low anyway! We’ll see how I fare tomorrow with the black tea. I have been very good on the Vernors front – not a sip since Wednesday night!

  6. Oh God, this is terrifying. I hadn’t had dental coverage for awhile, so I’ve been putting off going (coming up on 2 years, I think). I’ve never had a cavity before, so maybe I’ll be okay? I hope?

  7. Oh God! I hope Brenna doesn’t read this! We’re having a devil of a time getting her in for a cleaning and it will be a year and a half before she’s going to the dentist! Good Luck!

Share your thoughts below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s