Monday, September 21, 2009

Dental Hygiene Is No Joke.

I was just sticking my Sonicare toothbrush head into the very cool UV Sanitizer, watching the blue glow light up the bathroom, when I realized what a crazy person I am. I bought one of these things. One of these sanitizer things. I am probably the only person ON EARTH who bought one, actually believing that it would make my toothbrush sparkly clean. But it should have been when I was cleaning out the motorized handle of the toothbrush with a frigging q-tip that I accepted my insanity. But if you had teeth and gums like mine, you would be just as obsessed. Or you would have no teeth or gums. It really is that simple. And anyone who has witnessed their 83 year old grandmother swish her dentures around in her mouth, as I have, would be scared straight into the dentist's chair. Then there was the time at the nursing home when she put in someone's else's dentures. Oy. I know I will probably be senile, but it would be great to not have someone else's teeth in my mouth at that time, dignity being in such short supply.

This all started with our first dentist, seriously named Dr. Smilovits. Simply put, he was a quack. The worst dentist ever. Much of the dental work I had in the late 80's was simply undoing the terrible work of Dr. Smilovits in the 70's. His icky pornstache coming at me, and his then-groovy blue sparkle laminate dental office is indelibly etched into my brain. He looked like a clothed Mark Spitz with a drill.  One of my enduring memories is my father, in all his hugeness, standing over me in the dentist's chair when I was eight years old. My father was shaking the hell out of me, shaking me by my shoulders, and as I was coming to from the overly large dose of nitrous Smilovits had given me to pull some teeth, my father was saying, "Never(shake) Again (shake). While I Am Alive( shake shake shake shake)!" And yet, in the way of many who follow my Mechanic's Theory (continue to take your car to a mechanic you think is no good/cheating you because at least you know what you are getting from him) my parents' continued to take us to this guy until my really, really bad root canal. During my short tenure at Ohio State, I spent much of the time at the Dental Clinic, trying to manage the lingering pain in my mouth. When I ran from Ohio for Boston, I left bad dentistry behind, which led me to where I am now, the excellent and adorable dentist I will call Dr. Flintstone.

Dreamy and dark, Dr. Flintstone remembers everything he has ever done to every tooth in my mouth. I have been seeing him for around twenty years, and there has been a significant amount of stuff he has had to do, and he remembers each and every one. He can tell me from across the room what year he worked on the crown on the left bottom side in my mouth, how long it took and how many tries it took to fit it properly. The man has Mouth Memory. Truly. And while I know OCD gets a bad name, don't you want your dentist to remember every dirty thing he has ever done to your teeth and gums? Dr. Flintstone saved my tooth from the bad root canal, filled my cavities with lovely white amalgam, and has gotten rich off of my crappy gums.And yet, back then, no matter how much of my paycheck I would deposit directly into his contractor's bank account, I didn't floss, didn't care for my mouth properly.  Then he got his stupid gum pocket measuring machine.

Many years back, Dr. Flintstone lost his office, and almost his life, to a major fire. The only upside to that was he was able to build a really state-of-the-art, blue sparkle laminate free dental office with all the bells and whistles.  One of these whistles was this nasty machine that measures how deep the pockets in your gums are. If things are bad, the hygienist scrapes them out to prevent periodontal disease and any enjoyment of anything you might have for the next three days. Truly, it is awful. I am genetically blessed with really bad gums, and I have long been familiar with  gum pocket cleaning hell. But then he got this machine, this evil machine, which was designed to take the guesswork out of measuring the depths of the pockets while having the added bonus of making the patient feel like the biggest dental degenerate of all time. Stick the little needle thingy into the gums, and it actually CHANTS the numbers out loud, for everyone in the office to hear. 1-3 is peachy, four is dicey, and anything after 5 is an invitation to the ritual scraping. Lying there in my drool covered bib, hearing "FIVE", "FIVE","FIVE" over and over again, I wanted to take the little dental drill and put a hole in my own head. Dr. Flintstone came in from ACROSS THE ENTIRE OFFICE, which is not small, and said to me, his big brown eyes staring into mine, "Are you ready to take care of yourself now?" Weeping, I nodded. And together, we went into the promised land of excellent dental hygiene.

Thus, I own the best Sonicare toothbrush one can buy. And I change the head every month. And I have the UV cleaner. And I floss EVERY DAY or I am unable to sleep. And I use that rubber tipped thingy to stimulate my gums. And I am FANATICAL about using a straw to keep my teeth as white as can be. AND I see Dr. Flintstone and his band of merry hygienists every 3 months. And I am happy to report that he got rid of that stupid gum pocket measuring machine, at the nearly universal request of  his patients. Which is a shame, in a way, because I would like to hear that machine chant my periodontal triumph to the whole office. All twos and threes, with the very occasional four. So his OCD and mine worked together in complete harmony, and my smile is all the better for it. How I heart Dr. Flinstone.

But I still won't let him fix the space between my two front teeth.

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