Sunday, June 05, 2005
Dental trauma (Open up and say "ugh")
I'm a really bad role model.

Not all the time. I do eat reasonably well, and every once in a while I wipe the dust off my yoga CD. I read for fun, in front of my kids, and I have my car's oil changed every 3 months.

But I am a screaming failure in one particular area: dental health. I HATE going to the dentist. Seriously, seriously hate it. There are really no redeeming features to it, in my book.

Take today. I hadn't had an appointment in over a year, having used my pregnancy and breastfeeding as a get-out-of-misery-free card. I know, the books all say you should go to the dentist anyway while pregnant, but I need a Xanax to walk in the door, forget getting in the chair - and the books are clear also that you shouldn't cause yourself undue stress and anxiety, or take a handful of barbiturates, while pregnant... I had to pick one. But we're losing our health insurance for a year or so after we move, so we've all had physicals and appointments of varying kinds lately. And I put myself on the on-call list for a dental appointment, because when I know a week in advance that I have one, I will find a way to weasel out of it.

So they ambushed me today, and I even was able to find someone to watch the kids (the downsides of having helpful friends... "Are you sure you're not busy? Because that would be okay! Are you SURE??") So I slunk in, unmedicated since I'm still nursing, and plunked down all jittery and tense in the waiting room. They don't let me stay there long, I think because I make the other patients nervous. I got settled, comfortable as a cat in poolside seats at a Sea World show, and the hygienist started cleaning my teeth.

Does this bother anyone else? The dentist wants your teeth cleaned before he'll see you. Does anyone else, ever, treat you like this??? Do you have to take a shower - or, to carry the analogy farther, a sponge bath - before seeing your doctor? (Though, hmmmm, one of my OB's was particularly delicious, I might have accepted a sponge bath from him... but I digress.) Do you have to wash your car before taking it to a mechanic? No!

So I clenched my hands - they don't like it when you grit your teeth - through the cleaning. The rubber gloves squeaked on my teeth, the x-ray tabs dug into my soft palate, and the light-mirror-thingy blinded me, but I behaved and sat quietly. Except to say, "Mmmmph?" every 23 seconds, because the hygienist wears a face mask and I read lips, so communication is not a smooth process there.

Does anyone else's dentist use 14 - yes, I counted - 14 different scary little hook things? And what kind of sadist developed those terrible little mouth-sized vacuum cleaners which threaten to invert your ears if you close your lips too tightly around them?

After that, she said, "Do you grind your teeth?" I now know the answer to this question, but being unenlightened at the time, I said, "No." She said, "Well, you have some wear on your front teeth that would be consistent with grinding them." I said, "Okay. I've never noticed, and my husband has never said anything about it." She said, "You should try and stop grinding them, or you'll keep wearing away at them." I said, "I'll do my best, but I've never caught myself doing it." She said, "Okay, but you should really stop." I THOUGHT, "For the love of God, am I speaking in Sanskrit???" but SAID, "Okay, thanks."

No cavities, hooray, though I did get a 13-minute-long explanation of why I should use fluoride mouthwash to prevent them. See, me, I'm very content to accept that some people are experts in a given field, and I pay them for their expertise so that I don't have to be an expert - so if my dentist says, "Use fluoride mouthwash," I say, "Okay." I don't need to know the historical and cultural implications of plaque buildup and decalcification and the interactions between environmentalism and communism and gingivitis.

I need a nap.