Monday, December 22, 2008

An afternoon rendez-vous chez le dentiste

I like my dentist!

I know I'm in the minority of the American population when I say that. I've heard many stories about patients who have to take a Xanax or Valium or related drug before they even get in the car to go to the dentist's office. I've also heard stories about those who have had to be put under general anesthesia before they even go for a cleaning.

I'm glad I'm not one such patient. My dentist rocks.

The Good Doc is a 15-minute drive from work, and a half-hour drive from my house. Yeah, I know it's kinda far, but I'm willing to travel that distance to see him. That's how good he is. His office is clean without being overly sterile. The waiting room is open, bright, and friendly, with a wide variety of current magazines (a big plus for any doctor's office). His staff is cheerful, but not to the point of perky. (And y'all know I don't do perky.) They knew me by name by my second visit--which came six months after the first.

I had gone to the same dentist my entire life before I met The Good Doc. When I moved out of my parents' house I had no choice but to find a new dentist--a choice which, to be honest, I welcomed. I didn't like my old guy's corny, tooth-related jokes, and I really didn't like his hygienists, who all seemed to talk nonstop and expect me to answer questions while I was getting my teeth cleaned. Ever try to answer an existential question while someone's scraping the tartar off your back molars? Right. I didn't think so.

The Good Doc's not like that. He still talks to you, but actually stops what he's doing to let you converse in an articulate manner. He explains every step of what he's doing to you, and really has a way of putting you at ease. His hygienist is the same exact way. Best of all, they don't expect you to talk while they're working on your teeth.

Best of all, I like The Good Doc and his hygienist because they're honest without being intimidating. I don't get any major scoldings for not doing what I'm supposed to (like flossing). For example, I went in today thinking I had two new cavities. It turned out to be tooth sensitivity caused by aggressive tooth brushing. They both noticed that two of my teeth (which they refer to by numbers; I'll just call them my second right molar and the tooth above it) had receding gums so badly, and in the same spot, that it was due to tooth brushing. The Good Doc asked if my teeth hurt whenever I went outside, in the cold air; I said they didn't. He relaxed when I told him this, concluding that it was my heavy hand with the brush that caused the sensitivity.

I was relieved to learn that I had no cavities. I haven't had a cavity in six years. I got my first and only cavity when I was 26, and The Good Doc was the one who found it. For some reason, parts of my back molars don't have any tooth enamel, but have brown spots instead. My former dentist wasn't too concerned, but the good doc was. He had me come in to get some sealants done.

Yep, sealants.

At the age of 26.

The Good Doc said that the sealants would prevent the brown spots from decay, and if any were already decaying, they'd fill it in. Well, sure enough, one of them was a wee bit soft, so they drilled a bit and filled it.

I don't remember the procedure.

And I was awake the whole time. I didn't need anesthesia.

My old dentist would have ignored the brown spots had I stayed with him.

I haven't had a cavity since.

I know how lucky I am. My family hasn't had a very good dental history. Mama Cat's mouth is full of fillings, as well as a gold tooth, which helps her greatly when it comes to weather predictions. It gets more or less sensitive depending on the direction of the barometer. Her teeth are also overcrowded and crooked, because her family couldn't afford orthodontia when she was a kid.

Papa Cat has straight, uniform, white teeth. Over half of them, however, are false. Both he and Mama Cat make regular trips to the periodontist. Last year he had a bridge put in, which cost him thousands of dollars. The company that made the bridge, however, couldn't get it molded right, so the periodontist kept sending the teeth back. For a while, Papa Cat had to wear a retainer with the missing teeth attached to it--well, at least he wore it in public. Mama Cat kept complaining about finding the retainer on the bathroom sink at night.

Sister Kitten had it the worst out of the four of us. She went through two rounds of braces and jaw surgery to correct an underbite. When she was sixteen, she had her upper jaw moved forward and her lower jaw moved back. She has a titanium plate in her soft palate and two titanium screws holding her jaw together. She lost a lot of weight because she couldn't fully open her mouth for a week, save for Ensure, which she hated. When she could finally open her mouth a little, she started eating soft foods. One of the foods she requested was cheesecake. Mama Cat bought her a six-inch marble cheesecake from the supermarket. Sister Kitten was only able to open her mouth wide enough to fit a demitasse spoon. So as she recovered, for breakfast, she'd take the cheesecake out of the refrigerator and eat from the center of it with the demitasse spoon, smirking at me and taunting me as I ate my Cracklin' Oat Bran.

As for me, when I was ten I started out with a quad behind my top row of teeth, which I hated. I was able to wiggle it out of my mouth with my tongue. Neither Mama nor Papa Cat were pleased. I moved up to a retainer, and after that, two years of braces, with some teeth pulling a year into the braces for good measure. Then I had my wisdom teeth extracted when I was 19. I've had it easy compared to the dental travails of my family.

My maternal grandmother had dentures, and I always loved to see her take them out of her mouth, put them in a glass, fill up the glass with water, and drop in the Polident. I loved watching that little tablet fizz. Both Grandma and Mama Cat, however, told me that Grandma Cat had dentures because she didn't take very good care of her teeth.

I've always been vigilant about my teeth. As a kid I used to chew those pink dental tablets before I brushed my teeth--you know, the ones that turn your teeth pink to indicate the presence of plaque. I brushed, flossed, and used Listerine. These days I just brush twice a day. I floss whenever I remember to do so. I've gotten very lazy about it. Lately I've gotten into the very bad habit of flossing a week before my six-month checkup.

I think I have The Good Doc and company fooled.

Either that, or they're not saying anything.

My next appointment's in six months. If all goes well, I still won't have any cavities.

Or maybe I'll get a root canal.

Maybe that's why I don't mind the dentist--I've never had any major dental work done.


I hope I'll still like him if that day ever comes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad you have a great dentist! It's an awesome feeling when you have an amazing doctor!