Well, that was (almost) painless.
That was my first dental visit in almost seven years. I dreaded it, both the actual scraping and prodding and the truckload of guilt that, in my experience, dentists and especially oral hygienists like to shove down your throat until you choke on it. How often do you brush your teeth? (The only acceptable answer is "whenever I'm not using them to chew my fo--excuse me, I have to go brush now.") Why have you not been to a dentist in so long? Don't you know that tooth decay causes global warming?
That's why I haven't been to a dentist in so long. I really don't need the heaping helping of judgment.
But as I said recently, I've had to balance that against my increasing self-consciousness about my teeth. Eventually I figured it was time to bite the bullet, so to speak.
We shortlisted two major dental chains. The first was Dawson Dental, and after the initial meet and greet I decided we wouldn't bother going anywhere else: the best another dentist could possibly hope to do is match this place. The dentist was friendly, courteous and thorough. He explained what he could see (no cavities) and what he couldn't without x-rays and a proper cleaning; he made me feel very comfortable, less like a patient and more like a client. And there was absolutely no judgment about my less-than-adequate professional care. "We don't care what happened before," he told me. "We only care about the present and the future of your teeth."
So today I went in for the cleaning. The hygienist examined my teeth and took x-rays, chatting amiably all the while, and then the dentist himself came in. He poked and prodded and spoke in Martian that his assistant dutifully wrote down, then sat me up and said
"You have no cavities."
This surprised me a little bit. I sorta kinda thought my whole mouth was one big cavity.
"Your teeth are severely eroded, likely from soda; we're going to build them back up. There are some old fillings that should be replaced, and you're looking at a retainer for the bottom set of chompers there. I'll explain all this in detail to you after the cleaning is done. And congratulations, for someone who hasn't seen the dentist in a little while, your home care routine is excellent."
Wow. Last week I was feeling pretty low; I've since had a number of huge pick-me-ups said to me and written about me and this was only the latest of them. The hygienist stopped her cleaning at one point to repeat what the dentist had said. "Your brushing and flossing is very good." I couldn't quite find the breath to explain to her that I'd never flossed a day in my life.
To be perfectly honest, I've long been gauging my crooked, dented, chipped set of teeth against the perfectly even and squared teeth of Hollywood celebrities. I wasn't even really aware I was doing it, but I was. Every TV smile is like the snow on the Feast of Stephen, deep and crisp and even and Ken, don't you think it's just a tad ironic that you, of all people, are judging yourself against Hollywood "perfection"? Have you not made it your mission in life to get people to love themselves more than they do? Aren't you forever railing against people who judge others on appearance?
Well, yeah, but all that can't apply to me.
No? And why's that?
Because...because...ah, fine, you have a point.
(I often have these arguments with myself, They're the only ones I stand a chance of winning.)
It wasn't all fun and games. The cleaning--which they told me right away would have to be done in two sessions, another point in their favour--was unpleasant, occasionally very much so. That severe erosion is to blame: there are places where my enamel is woefully thin. It doesn't often affect my chewing, but the scrape and poke occasionally hit a literal nerve. Luckily, I've all but kicked the pop addiction that I used to have. There was a point--well, I hesitate to tell you my daily intake, Let's just say for a while it could be measured in litres, plural. Now I'm down to a can or glass a month, roughly...and I don't miss it all that much.
Today was just the first step (half a step, really) in a journey towards a mouth I can be proud of...I don't care if you look, that's enough to make me smile.