The Painful Secret To Having A Good DayToday, I think I may have discovered the secret for having a good day, every day. It’s really quite simple. Start off each morning by visiting your local dentist, let him pry your mouth open for an hour straight until you’re truly panicked that it might get stuck there, while he convenes a drilling operation into a tooth that for at least a moment seems poised to strike oil somewhere in your ear canal. When you get out of the chair that played host for this procedure, you walk away confident that the rest of your day is only going to get better.
I guess you’ve figured out I took a trip to the dentist today. And if I come off presenting that today was a bad dentist day, I apologize, because I really want you to gather that I’ve had a bad dentist life! Oh I think dentists are nice enough people, I just don’t trust them. The teeth medicine field is woefully behind in my estimation. Dentists are allowed too much room to exercise their own judgment. And because we the patients know relatively little about our teeth, at least compared to other medical complications of our body, we’re left to just go with it.
I guess this all started somewhere back in my teens. I had never had a cavity. Then I visited a new dentist and he immediately assessed that I had two cavities. No pictures or x-rays to corroborate it, just something he felt in the teeth. So he filled them.
In my early twenties I had a dentist tell me I had to go immediately to get my wisdom teeth pulled. Failure to do so would lead to imminent severe pain and gum disease that would threaten the existence of the neighboring teeth. I didn’t go. I still have those teeth, 20+ years later. They’ve never caused me an ounce of trouble. Oh maybe they will someday, but I think we’ve now exited and lost complete site of the word “imminent”.
It may have been this visit or one soon after that I swore off visits to the dentist. I determined that I had been blessed with a mouth full of low maintenance teeth and began to treat them accordingly. Then, only a few years ago, after over 15 years of dental abstinence, I gave in. Katie hounded me to go to the dentist, my mom hounded me (who works for a dentist), so I didn’t exactly take a new position on dentistry, but more rose to the only position you can rise to when being hounded by a wife and/or a mom – a position of compliance.
This turned out to be a very good visit. They did a deep cleaning that took two visits, but my teeth were as clean as they had ever been. They did confirm though my assessment about the low maintenance teeth – after 15 years I had NO cavities – which really only made me more frustrated about the two fillings in my mouth from many years ago.
I had just gotten back in the routine of every six months cleanings when we moved to Virginia. I was several months overdue when I picked a dentist out of the yellow pages. To make a very long story short, they did a thorough examination of my teeth and determined I needed a deep cleaning. I would have to come in for 4 visits, each would require my mouth to be numbed, and each would cost $200. Let’s see, $800, 4 needles rammed in my gums, and 1 clean mouth. That didn’t add up – so I got out of the chair and left. I paid my bill for the visit, but made it clear they would never see me again. They haven’t. (As a side note – they did determine I had NO cavities.
That visit had me on the cusp of returning to a dentist-free life. But I started thinking about Elliott and his dental hygiene. I knew it would be impossible to sell him on going to the dentist if I didn’t. I knew it didn’t mean anything today, but I might as well get practiced for the day that it did.
So Katie made me an appointment with a dentist here in town. I went to visit them Monday. (It has only been a few months since receiving the diagnosis of NO cavities and a 4 hour cleaning). What was my new dentist’s diagnosis? I had a very clean mouth – a brief ½ hour cleaning would do the trick, but I had two cavities and one of my fillings had cracked. Can three months and two dentists produce two diagnosis on more opposite ends of the peridental spectrum? To add insult, the dentist declared to me that I should feel good. Over a year away from the dentist and only two cavities. I told him I had just doubled my cavity total of 44 years – that didn’t seem good to me. He didn't reply.
Worst, in my mind, I still don’t know if I’ve ever had a cavity. But I had one of the fillings fixed today and will have two new cavities filled in a couple of weeks. It really is hard some days trying to be a good dad – but it is a sure fire way to ensure a good day.