The Dentist

Does anybody actually like going to the dentist?  Other than, well, dentists?  And do dentists like going to other dentists, or do they have a “dentist heal thyself” attitude toward their own dental hygiene?

I had my six-month cleaning this afternoon.  I never much minded the dentist the majority of my life.  In fact, when I was a kid I kind of liked going because they would take my picture each time for the bulletin board, and they’d give me the old picture to take home.  I thought it was kind of neat.  I also loved that spinny polishing brush they use with little kids.

I think my enjoyment of dental visits ended when I graduated from the spinny polishing brush to the baking soda blasting rifle they use on adults.  I still didn’t mind so much, because I never had any cavities and my mouth always felt so squeaky clean.

I got braces in middle school and got them off with nary a cavity in sight. Impressive for a thirteen year old. I got my wisdom teeth out when I was sixteen.

I’ve always held a very healthy respect for my own dental hygiene.  In fact, when I was a kid, I made up a series of stories about a super hero who went around saving the world from tooth decay.  I’m not kidding.  His name was “Super Toothbrush.”  He had a side kick.  “Super Toothpaste.”

I was a geek even in second grade.

The importance I place on dental hygiene didn’t diminish when I went to college.  In fact, I was known to get up out of bed a full hour after getting into bed because, for some odd reason, I’d forgotten to brush my teeth.  On my 21st birthday, I informed my friends at the end of the evening that I had to brush because “dental hygiene is always important, no matter how drunk you are.”  I don’t remember saying this, but my friends quoted me on it the next morning, and I do remember standing at the sink, propped up by a couple of good friends, and brushing my teeth.  I smeared toothpaste all over my cheek in the process, but I didn’t have nasty breath the next morning.

The thing I hate most about going to the dentist isn’t the baking soda blasting rifle, or the way the dental hygienist flosses my teeth at the end.  I don’t even mind the traditional plaque scraping.  What I hate is that super high powered water pick they took to using about fifteen years ago.  I always feel like my gums are much worse off afterward, and that thing lets off a pitch that’s at the exact frequency of my eardrums.  It’s awful.  It’s nails on a chalkboard awful.

See, I have weird enamel.  “Spots” show up on my x-rays that aren’t really problems, but any dentist other than my dentist would want to drill.  I have weak areas.  I have pits in my molars that have been sealed and resealed because I could get cavities despite my best efforts.  And I’ve got this one tooth way in the back of the top right side of my mouth that I can never seem to get very clean.  My teeth are straight, but full of drama.

I also dread going to the dentist now, especially if I know I have to get x-rays done.  This is because, despite going 18 months with braces and no cavities, a miracle for even the most steadfast brusher, I now have a filling.  That’s right.  I went 28 years without a single cavity, and that was the first appointment my dentist ended without telling me I “have beautiful teeth.”

Since then, despite my lackadaisical attitude toward flossing (even though I know better), I’ve had stellar dental reports and a few times here and there when they hand me a prescription for pure fluoride toothpaste.  I get it filled, use it for a couple months, then end up tossing the tube after it sits unused for another eight months.  I sometimes wonder how awesome my teeth would be if I used that stupid toothpaste regularly.