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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Today At The Dentist ...

I've got a cavity ... or receding gums ... or an infected root. My teeth feel fine, but it's my regularly semi-annual cleaning appointment at my dentist and its ALWAYS something.

He's a great guy ... on the younger side and he has a very hip office with decent magazines in the waiting room, original cartoon animation cels around the various rooms, competent help who don't mind arguing on my behalf with my insurance company, and a flat screen TVthat's usually tuned to the Cartoon Network or Boomerang. Classy!

What I don't like is that he talks to all his patients like we're five years old. This is not my first dental rodeo, so to speak. I've had many, many cavities, two root canals, two extractions (I'm not proud), and a crown procedure that in the 16th century would have been considered the highest form of torture. He can speak to me man-to-man.

And, like I said, I don't care for the fact that even when my teeth feel fine, he always finds something pricey to fix. Or it's time to update x-rays ... cha-ching!

I blame my parents for the state of my teeth ... well, I blame their DNA. We were, and still are, a family of bad teeth. We all, as far as I know, follow the "Holy Trinity" of brush, floss, and regular check-ups, but it doesn't matter. Every parent and grandparent ended up with dentures, a few at surprisingly early ages. All us siblings have problems, and some of the nieces and nephews look downright British from a dental viewpoint. Personally, I know I should brush more often and floss more regularly, but why bother when my fate is sealed.

I've never been excited about oral hygiene. When we were kids, we did the dentist thing because my Dad's insurance pushed it and we loved the free brushes and floss at each visit. But when I was around four, I remember going with my Mom and sister for a check-up that changed how we looked at dentistry as a family. My grandmother drove us to the dental practice and she and I waited in the car while my sister took the first appointment. They weren't gone long, and my Mom was literally sobbing as she crossed the parking lot. "He's dead," she cried once inside the vehicle, "dead." Our dentist had taken his own life over the weekend and our names slipped through the cracks when canceling appointments. I knew my Mom really liked our dentist ... we all did ... but she had a great many oral problems and he had worked very gently with her. According to various studies, male dentists are 6 to 7 times more likely than adult males 25 and older to commit suicide. Some blame the nature of the beast ... causing people discomfort. Others feel that dentists are affected negatively by their standing with doctors and other professionals in the medical community at large. No study seems to have the answers, but, as a family, we grieved hard.

It was probably eight or nine years before us kids got back into a routine of going to the dentists. And by then the problems had piled up. Overbites ... cavities ... wisdom teeth ... "extra" incisors. We were a mess.

When I left home for college, I found a dentist there so I could keep up the regimen I had built through my late teens. He was a great guy ... good talker with lots of funny stories ... young enough to come across as cool ... and apparently, as I would soon learn through gossip and hastily canceled appointments ... addicted to laughing gas. He went through rehab three separate times with little success (apparently). Correspondingly, I fell of the dental wagon for several years.

When I landed my first job, a co-worker suggested her dentist. Why not, I thought. Here's why not: 1) my "new" dentist was an older woman of Romanian heritage who spoke little and grunted while she worked, 2) Natasha on the old "Rocky and Bullwinkle" cartoons could have been her twin in looks and mannerisms, 3) She operated out of this old cinder block building that always felt damp, and 4) her x-ray machine was older than she was. I saw her twice.

My current guy is looking better and better as I finish this entry. He does motivate my brushing habits, especially with his three-day reminders. Like clockwork, I get a call and an e-mail reminding me that my next appointment is about three days away. During that time period, I brush and floss like a demon on crack. I scrub my teeth until my gums bleed ... really. Now if I could just spread that enthusiasm over the six months between visits, I'd be set.

POINT OF RANT: Ask for grape floss ... they have it but hold it back for the real kiddies.

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