I hate to brag, but I have great teeth. Never had a filling. No bridges. No crowns. No root canals. My teeth are pretty, white and straight– the teeth of middle class girls who parents shelled out big time for the molar sealants, regular cleanings, and braces.
I was proud to be a thirty-something who never had a cavity. Of course, I knew it wasn’t entirely fair– others who flossed more regularly and also had parents that shelled out for top-of-the-line dental care from the time their first tooth erupted started getting fillings in elementary school. Not to say if I sucked on candies 24-7 and never touched a toothbrush that my teeth would like as nice as they do. But our destiny in dental health is not entirely within our control.
Now, I grew up at a time where there was hypervigilance about dental hygeine (I suppose its probably still a similar environment, but I don’t have kids so I’m not sure). My dad faithfully took me for my 6 month cleanings during childhood, and I would sit in the waiting room and stare at a poster on the wall of a cartoon tooth encouraging children to “Brush Daily to Prevent CAVITIES!” “Floss Regularly to Prevent CAVITIES” Accompanied by a graphic of a tooth riddled with brown yuck. For the older audience, there were pictures of what looked to be Meth Mouth, although I’m not sure that existed in 1985, with captions reading “Visit Your Dentist Today!”
School wasn’t much better. Every year until high school, it seems we recieved dental hygeine talk. In short, it amounted to: “YOUBETTERBRUSHYOURTEETHANDFLOSSBECAUSEIFYOUDONTYOUWILLGETCAVITIESANDYOURTEETHWILLFALLOUT!!!! anyquestions?”
With this sort of propoganda, I was always scared to go to the dentist, but time and time again I kept walking out with a smile and a sticker on my chest with a yellow star that said “No Cavities!” And eventually, I was too old for the star stickers, but still kept getting a clean bill of dental health.
Until this week.
My dental office is pretty swanky. They give you parrafin wax treatments for your hands and you can watch cable TV while you get your teeth cleaned. All seemed to be going as planned during my bi-annual routine visit. I was watching election coverage on CNN and was in awe of having so many channels to choose from. My dentist finished the cleaning.
“Everything looks good. Except you have a cavity. Liz will talk to you about it.” She started to walk out the door.
“What? I’ve never had a cavity!” I squeaked.
“I know. I’m sorry. Liz will talk to you about scheduling.”
Now I’ve had a number of losses in the last two months. I lost my mother to cancer, my favorite chicken to a hawk, and my car to old age. I have now lost my identity as the girl who has no cavities and I haven’t been taking it very well. And if you’ve been getting drilled since age 6, its hard to shower a girl with pity who was practically elderly at the age of first cavity. I feel like Mom would be appropriately sympathetic, but she hasn’t been able to adequately comfort me from beyond. So, wish me luck as I transition into the world-of-everyone-else, and get a filling on February 20th.