Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Getting Off Easy

Ahem. Now that I have your attention, I'd like to talk about the dentist.

When I was little, I went to the dentist as often as I was supposed to. I was terrified of getting cavities, though I ended up with a few here and there. I had braces for eighth grade and though we weren't poor, my parents made it clear that with the money being spent on my teeth, they should be a source of pride for me and something to take good care of. But as I got deeper into my studies in college, I started going to the dentist less often than I should. I'm not sure when the last time I went to my childhood dentist in Minnesota was, but after I moved to Florida, things got a lot worse.

As a grad student I didn't have dental insurance. I never brought it up, but I'm sure if I had wanted to go, my parents would be more than happy to help with the cost. When Dean and I got married and I was put on his insurance, dental was covered. But by that time, my anxiety had gotten the best of me. It had been several years since I had been in for an exam. My friends were experiencing similar issues, after graduating going to the dentist for a deserved tongue-lashing and ending up needing root canals, deep cleanings, tissue grafts, you name it. A couple times my parents asked me if I'd seen a dentist lately and I blew them off. Even though I now had dental insurance, I was imagining still needing thousands of dollars of work to make up for at least seven or eight years of lapsed cleanings and check ups. I didn't exactly neglect my teeth, I still flossed several times a week and brushed at least twice a day. But my sweet tooth is worrisome, to say the least.

The more time went on, the more dentist anxiety I got. When I started the job I have now, I opted for dental insurance swearing I'd use it to get caught up on dental work, but I just kept finding excuses not to make an appointment. Then about six weeks ago I bit into an apple and my permanent retainer that went across the inside of my bottom teeth popped off, leaving behind shards of cement that grazed my tongue almost constantly. Great. Not only did I need to see a dentist, but my orthodonture was out of whack and I couldn't tell by peering in my mouth if my tooth actually chipped when the cement was yanked off. I was a mess.

So I contacted the only person native to Providence that I trust. My landlord. Okay, I know that's a little sad, but as I mentioned most grad students don't see dentists regularly, and my landlord also works for my University so I knew we had the same insurance. I told her I needed the name of a good, friendly dentist that would go easy on me. She told me about Dr. A, whose motto is "We cater to cowards". It sounded good enough, but when I went on the website, quite honestly, the guy looked like a total tool. The website showed him with his family and they all had super white teeth and were wearing all white clothes and looked like they should have been in a Mormon cult. But I trusted my landlady and she is the type to follow up on this sort of stuff and I didn't want to explain that I didn't see her dentist because he looked like a Mormon.

Turns out I was completely wrong. The toolish looking family on the internet were just models and the dentist himself is an older gentleman who seemed genuinely interested in me, my life, Dean's life and my sordid dental history. He even asked me about my feelings on the Minnesota Senate race and whole-heartedly respected my opinion despite the fact the waiting room was showing Fox News. Regarding my teeth, I blatantly lied and told him it had been approximately five years since my last exam, set of x-rays, and cleaning. He told me my teeth looked fantastic for five years (recall it's probably been closer to eight years), offered to scrape off the cement on my front teeth and found one lonely cavity. Otherwise everything is normal.

So what is the take home message from this long, rambling post about my teeth? The point is that once it had been a little while since I was due for a cleaning, I freaked out and waited an addition 6-7 years to go to a dentist. And all that worry was for nothing. And with good dental insurance, all I paid for during the whole ordeal was the upgrade from silver to tooth-colored filling. That upgrade was my own personal reward to myself for brushing and flossing enough to only have one cavity in eight years. And if anyone needs a dentist in the Providence area, I have a recommendation for you.

9 comments:

Dianne said...

I'm so glad it worked out for you

I have great teeth, I just don't have any gums for them to live in ;)

Anonymous said...

Going to the dentist always makes me feel a little bit claustrophbic. Once you get in that chair and open your mouth you know you aren't going anywhere until they are done. And the price! It's no wonder people don't go for years. Glad found a good dentist.
Catsfursure

mom said...

Dentists are very strange people to me. If you think about the fact that you only (hopefully) see them twice a year and when you do they are totally all up in your MOUTH. They can't have bad breath or body odor, and they usually smell like some clean smelling soap, never harsh cologne or perfumey hair products. A lot of thought has got to go into personal hygiene every day. Also, do you ever really get to know them? For instance, I have been going to my dentist for 13 years now, he has been my husbands dentist for 25 years. He is very good with people and always makes sure he asks us each about our specific interests. "Steph what are you reading this month?" "Tom, how are the Twins (Timberwolves depending on the season)doing this year?" But when we went to make our appontment this spring we found out that DR."J" was unavailable due to a snowboarding accident, with a parachute, that hurled him 2 stories high, where he eventually fell and broke his neck! He is going to be okay, but who knew this soft spoken and talented "dentist" was into exteme sports?

Jackie said...

lol, this is so funny. I too just went to the denist for the first time since university! And basically, you story is exactly mine (dental thingy cemented behind bottom teeth coming loose and all!) and oh ya, I too lied and said about 5 years when it had been more like 8.
Although I had two not quite cavities but almost ones, that he is going to fix at my next appointment.

fermicat said...

Awwww, that's nothin'. When I moved from Atlanta to New England, I also did not bother to seek out new dental care. For nine -- COUNT 'EM, 9 -- years!! And when I finally caved in and went? Not a single cavity or any new problem. So I went for regular cleanings for a couple of years until 2004 when I moved back to Georgia. And never went back to a dentist since then. Oh, I mean to. I have a sticky note on my desk with the number of a very nice local "cater to cowards" dentist near my house, with several glowing recommendations from my friends. One of these days, I will actually make an appointment. Gulp.

Jeni said...

Growing up, my Mom made sure we both went to the dentist regularly. It was a mandatory thing for her and she scrimped and saved to make sure she had the money for each visit. That being the dark ages, I don't think dental insurance had come about then. But after I got out on my own, I rarely saw a dentist -a combination of extreme fear, plus lousy finances. As a child, I had needed braces -or something -because of a maloclusion but that was beyond my Mom's finances and the dentist even told her he wasn't sure my teeth would hold up okay if I did have braces. It was something that always made me feel very self-conscious too. Fast forward to the 80s and I managed to get dental "help" via the Dept. of Vocational Rehabilitation. The result then, many cavities, many fillings plus that dentist informed me my teeth would have come in ok, with no need for braces, had the early dentist just removed a few key teeth that had come in way too soon and my mouth wasn't well enough formed for them so naturally, they pushed out. He pulled my front upper teeth, made me a partial plate and for the first time in my life, I felt a little better about my mouth, my smile, etc. That is until the good old gum disease hit and I ended up having to have all of 'em extracted and got dentures. But, the dentist who did the dentures somehow managed to get them made so the lower plate extends out, doesn't meet near evenly with the upper plate and now, I feel like I am back to square one again. Seems the maloclusion I had all along was actually of the lower jaw -same as my older daughter had -and what should have been done all those years ago would have entailed breaking the jawbone and wiring the mouth shut for several months! That's what my older daughter had done and her teeth today -20 years after the fact -are beautiful. She also is lucky and has very strong teeth, very few cavities but she also is like my mother and insists on making sure she has the regular dental checkups too -for herself as well as for her son!

Hot4Teacha said...

I still hate the dentist. No offense to the guy - he's nice and all. But I hate him.

Beth said...

I can't tell you how OCD I am about oral care. My kids, soon to be 15 and 16, have never had a cavity. I always told them it wasn't an option. Today's kids don't have to have cavities. Not with the floss, the rinses, and the fabulous 12 hour toothpastes. I started brushing their teeth when they had one little nub and that's the most important thing. I worked for a dentist and he said as soon as you see white, brush with a baby toothpaste and if you keep the baby teeth from cavities, the adult teeth will be the same.

I had cavities because my parents didn't even believe in dental care. I learned at school when a dentist visited our elementary school that I was supposed to be brushing 5 minutes (the old standard) twice a day and about floss, etc. Then I started buying my toothbrushes and toothpaste myself with my allowance.

I am so long-winded on this, but when I see a kid with a ton of cavities, I just want to smack the parent.

Natalie said...

dianne,
I was worried that was going to be my problem as well. The hygenist even freaked me out about it, but the dentist didn't think it was a problem. I'll believe the dentist. ;)

Catsfursure,
I was amazed how good my insurance is. I don't think the total price I paid was bad for what I got. I do not feel as much claustrophobic as I feel like I compulsively have to swallow when they have that stupid vacuum in there.

mom,
I never thought about how careful they have to be with their hygiene. I guess they must spend a lot of time making sure you don't notice anything. But I did spend a great deal of time contemplating the hygienist's eye makeup. It was a little over the top, which is par for the course in NE.

jackie,
That's hilarious! Those retained thingys must only be made to last long enough to drag our butts to the dentist after 7 or 8 years. And I think we should count 2 sorta cavities the same as my 1 real cavities. Then our stories are identical!

fermi,
Do it now before another 9 years pass! But that's pretty damn impressive. You must have fantastic teeth.

jeni,
Holy crap! What a story! I'm sorry your dental history is so bad, especially since it seems so much of it could have been avoided. But I'm really glad your daughter's teeth were saved.

hot4teacha,
Yeah, so many people hate the dentist. I wonder if dentists have to go to personal affirmation classes of something so that they don't feel too bad about being despised.

beth,
Why am I not surprised? I have learned from talking to people though that a lot of dental problems are genetic. I have a friend who brushes and flosses as much as you and still can't stop cavities from forming. I seem to be pretty lucky, brushing and flossing seem to be enough to keep them from happening. But the dentist also told me that I needed to not brush so forcefully because I was ruining my gumline. He made me get an electric toothbrush that is extra gentle with your teeth and has a built in timer that goes off after 2 minutes. So far I like it, but I was dismayed there is such a thing as brushing too vigorously.