Sunday, October 4, 2015

Teething Pains

“Do you floss?” the dental hygienist asked.

Why do they always ask that?! I floss like crazy. I stow floss in my purse, my car, my desk drawer, the cushions of the couch. I buy the multi-packs. I know that waxed is better for most people and that the picks don’t work as well as the stringed kind. I am an addict. No one flosses more than I do.

But under interrogation, leaning back on that hard gray chair, under the spotlight, I stammered. “Um, well, you know, I …”

“You have to floss or you’ll get (gingivitis and a couple of bigger words),” she interrupted. “And your gum will separate from the tooth. You’ll lose bone.”

I can actually list a million people (maybe more, if I really concentrate) who take less care of their teeth than I do. I mean, I’m a GRADE A FLOSSER.

“Do you use an electronic or manual toothbrush?”

It’s called a manual now?

You know how sometimes you can’t remember the name of someone or something you see almost every day?

“I use one of those, uh, those electric ones with the gold-plated toothbrush head replacements.”

“A Sonicare?” she asked.

For some reason, I heard “Sonic,” and all I could think about was a cherry limeade. Crushed ice, lime, cherry, deliciousness. Mmmmm.

When I looked up, she was peering at me over the blue protective mask.

 “Yeh, I think,” I replied.

“Well, how old is it? Does it change vibrations every 30 seconds?” she continued.

People brush their teeth for longer than 30 seconds?

“Well, it’s kind of old, and it’s, um, really basic, I think. Honestly, I have no idea.”

She paused, her eyebrows furrowed, like she was about to deliver some bad news. “I think even those basic models change vibration,” she said seriously.

It occurred to me that I didn’t know my toothbrush very well at all.

“Do you brush the back of your teeth?”

They have backs?

“Are you spending at least 20 seconds with each tooth?”

They have feelings?

There I was. The kid caught in a lie.

You know those braggers who say they only brush once a day and have perfect checkups? Yeah, I don’t associate with them either. My last crown cost $600 (with insurance) and 30 days of daily ibuprofen. Are these dental scare tactics standard procedure now?

With a sharp metal tool (is this sterile?!), she meticulously poked at each tooth and around its gum, whispered a number (2 “3 “4) and then typed something into a complex, multi-colored chart on the computer. Finally, she said, “I’m concerned about the 4-millimeter ones.” (Or was it 4 centimeters? The metric system never clicked with me.)

“There seems to be some separation between the bone and the gum,” she said gravely.

This better not have anything to do with flossing. Because, let me tell you, I am a fricking flosser, OK?

“I get concerned when I see some 4s. Now, I don’t want to upset you, but I do see a few 4s.”

Why do I have the feeling that “4s” (whatever those are) are not covered by insurance?

Bending over the chair, her head blocking the spotlight, she looked me in the eyes. “I’m not trying to upset you. But if I see more 4s next year, well, you just never know.

Then, with a reassuring smile, she added, “Now, I don’t want you to worry; this process will be practically painless.”

Until I get the bill.

Paid cartoon used by permission,

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