Thursday, February 17, 2011

Smile! No wait, don't...you have bad teeth.

I loathe the dentist.

Okay, I don’t loathe the dentist personally, but I hate, repeat HATE going to the dentist. My dislike of going to the dentist was compounded about a thousand times when I had to go this week, on Valentine’s Day of all days.

Let me give you some history…

 I don't like teeth to begin with, I have a fantastic gag reflex, genetically average to bad teeth, plus incredible hot/cold sensitivity. Add to that the fact that I don’t like the noise of the metal scrapey thing or the drill, plus the fact that I’m a big fat wienie, and you have someone whose stomach becomes a pit of dread when a dental appointment is approaching. As a small child, my dentist was the father of a girl I went to school with (I still remember her first name was Amelia). Bad dental experience #1 happened under his care – I had to get a retainer, and I threw up on his dental assistant (hey, small mouth + those awful trays full of goop + my gag reflex = me barfing on someone). I don’t know what happened to him, but my next dentist (Good Dentist) moved into Dentist #1’s offices, so I guess we just switched to the new guy.

Good Dentist was my dentist for YEARS – like 15. He was gentle, was cognizant of my gag reflex and sensitive teeth, and was just a nice guy. He had the same staff members the entire time he was in business, so you always knew what you were getting when you went in for a checkup. I faithfully went to all of my dental appointments from childhood through about age 18 (mostly because my mom made me). After 18, somehow the dentist slipped through the cracks, and I sort of stopped going.

When I was about 21, I had to get my own health coverage at work because I could no longer be covered under my parents. This meant I had to get my own dental insurance, too. I could have continued going to the Good Dentist, but I lived in Midtown and wanted a dentist that wasn’t in the Burbs. I chose one based on the recommendation of a coworker, and off I finally went (remember, haven’t been to a dentist in 3 years).

Turns out I went to a Bad Dentist. Like horrible, awful, can’t believe I paid her. Yep, I had a bunch of cavities, and actually needed a root canal, too. I never did get the root canal under her care, but did get the cavities filled – all with silver. Really? Silver? Long story short, Bad Dentist was awful - I hurt, I cried, I hated it, so I never went back.

I returned to Good Dentist, begged and pleaded to be seen again even though he wasn’t accepting new patients, and life was good. I had my root canals (not a bad process at all, except for the crowns), and after that, I maintained good oral health so that at each appointment, I was pleasantly surprised not to have any cavities (a rarity for me – I usually had at least one new cavity per appointment). I also made him promise he was not retiring any time soon, because I couldn’t go through finding a new dentist.

Turns out, he did retire.

Not by choice, but because of a bad back. Another dentist took over his practice, and it turned out to be…the daughter of my orthodontist.

Who I graduated from high school with.

Awkward.

Actually, not too awkward. We knew each other in high school, although we weren’t close friends. She was nice, but hung out with a different crowd. Now she’s my dentist. I thought about choosing a new dentist, but after seeing her for the first time (where I warned her about the gag reflex, sensitivity, and wienieness), I decided it was an okay situation and I’d stick with it.

Although I didn’t stick with it. I missed my next cleaning because I had a cold, and gee, I never rescheduled. The Husband has been bugging me to make us dental appointments, so I finally did (six months later). Mine ended up on Valentine’s Day.

So I go in, get x-rayed, and notice that my last dental appointment was in…late 2008. Yikes. Okay, so it’s been awhile. No biggie. I’d been having some sensitivity, so I knew I had a couple cavities, but still – no biggie.

Hippos probably don't get anxiety over going to the dentist.
Turns out, I was wrong.

I need numerous fillings and four crowns. FOUR. I’m on a strict regimen of a rinse, a special paste, flossing, and special gum to chew after meals. One reason is that apparently your pH balance changes during pregnancy and it can really screw up your teeth. One reason is my pure laziness…I know I should have gone to the dentist.

The other reason is Starbucks.

Truly. Apparently it’s really, really bad to sip your Iced-venti-decaf-two-pump-no-whip-mocha throughout the day. Even worse when you do it twice a day. Sure, the iced mocha may keep you full when you sip it, but while you’re sipping away, all that sugar is swimming around your teeth, rotting them one by one.

I was totally bummed after my appointment – bummed and pissed off. Also stressed about paying for numerous fillings and four crowns, especially since this is February and I only get a certain amount of dental coverage per calendar year.

Thinking about it now though, three days later, I had a realization. Yes, I still hate teeth. And yes, I still dread going to the dentist. And also yes, I’m still totally disappointed that Good Dentist retired. But, I’m really happy with New Dentist. Because New Dentist truly seems to care about my teeth. Yes, she’s going to make lots of money off me this year (she could probably remodel her house). But she also gave me the rinse, the flosser and the paste, for free. She told me where to get the special gum. She laid out my treatment plan for me, and when I called her to tell her about my insurance screw up (I have less coverage than I thought, oops), she rearranged my treatment plan, put some things off until next year, and didn’t hassle me about trying to get them all done NOW. She’s awesome. Her staff members are awesome.

I feel…calm. Not happy, but okay with all of this.

If any of you who live near me are looking for a new dentist, email me. Yes, it’s weird going to a dentist who graduated from high school with you, but not as weird as you’d think. And she’s kinda awesome.

So now I’m following my strict regimen, which kinda sucks, but is okay if I think about it as a challenge…I want to go back for my first filling appointment in March and have New Dentist say, Wow April, I’m so impressed with your good dental hygiene. I want to stop the bacteria in its tracks. I want to show everyone that I can follow directions and I’m not a loser with bad teeth.

Goodbye for now, Blog Land. I have to go floss my teeth and chew some gum.

Definitely not my teeth...though one can dream.