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.