Reformed Anti-Dentite

Until today, I had not been to the dentist in more than five years.  For reals.

Bad, I know.

My last brush with dentistry was not a pleasant one.  When I was living in LA (yes, it had been that long) I went to this dental clinic that was in the dank basement of an office building.  They insisted that I had a dozen cavities that needed filling.  (This was less than a year after I’d had my wisdom teeth removed, at which time I had zero cavities – and had never, ever had a cavity, in my life.)

But I was 24 and had better things to do than argue with a dentist – like, eating and drinking my way through Southern California and working a rather demanding job.  So I had all these damn fillings put in – and paid a pretty penny for them, even after my insurance coverage.  Six months later, I called the clinic for a follow-up cleaning and found the number disconnected.

Dentistry, I seethed.  What a racket.  Never again.

And I hadn’t.  Until today.

Why now?  Well, I’m 30 now and I guess it’s time to start being more responsible about these things.  Also, while I haven’t had any toothular (is that a word?) pain, I do have a couple of teeth where food always gets stuck lately, leading me to believe that something suboptimal might have been happening in there.

Going in, I was nervous.  Okay, terrified.  I don’t like doctors generally and I especially don’t like it when doctors are all up in my biz-nass (see also, gynecologist).  I don’t like sharp things in close proximity to my throat; I don’t like scraping; I don’t like drooling.  I don’t like that paralyzing feeling of not being able to move: OMG, the sharp pokey thing is in there…what if I accidentally move my tongue?  What if I have to swallow?  What if I’m overtaken by a sneeze?  Surely I will end up with that plaque scraper impaled in my cheek-flesh.

Fortunately, though, this was no shady basement practice.  My hygienist was incredibly nice and immediately struck up a conversation about running with me (I was clad in Tempo shorts and a race tee – my uniform these days).  Turns out, she was training for a half.  I told her I was training for my tenth full.  We bonded.

And with that, I kicked my fear to the curb.  You can run a marathon, I told myself.  You can survive a damn dental cleaning.

So, I did.  It wasn’t fun, but it was bearable.  There was a flat-screen TV mounted above the chair (genius idea!) and I watched Access Hollywood while five years of plaque was scraped off of my teeth.  Gum-lines were measured.  X-rays were taken.  My hygienist bid me goodbye; we wished one another luck in our respective races.  The dentist would be in shortly.

I’d like to say that the dentist was a huge jerknuts on account of the news he delivered, but unfortunately, I can’t blame the messenger for this one.  Two root canals.  Two teeth damaged, decayed, dead – beyond repair.  Two missing and broken fillings  – I could actually see a piece of one of them hanging out between my teeth on the x-ray.  The dentist said it was astonishing that I wasn’t in pain.

“Odd, though,” he remarked.  “When I saw those two, I assumed you would be cavity-prone.  But the rest of your teeth look perfect.”  He ran his finger along the image, showing a row of filling-capped teeth that showed no evidence of decay whatsoever.

Effing basement dentist.  Charlatan!  I should have known!

Oh well, live and learn, right?

Oddly, I trust this guy to fix the broken mess as needed on the two teeth where the fillings fell apart.  Part of me feels like I should get a second opinion, just because I am pretty sure I got scammed before.  But this very nice dentist patiently went over the x-rays with me in detail and explained what needed to be done. That definitely never happened last time around.

And, well…it makes sense.  I don’t feel any indignation over this.  No: root canals?  But WHY ME? Me, because I waited so long to deal with it.  In a way, I feel lucky that I’m only getting a couple of root canals.  Better than dentures!

I go in on Tuesday for RC #1.  Wish me luck.

And if I ever talk nonsense about taking a five-year hiatus from the dentist again?  Please kick me swiftly in the ass.

Today’s EAT: Cooking in the summer?  No.  Big-ass salad?  Yes.

This salad was caprese-inspired: mixed greens, Italian chicken sausage, fresh mozz, Campari tomatoes, fresh basil, black plums and toasted pine nuts.  I kept the dressing really simple – just olive oil with a bit of balsamic and honey.   Everything was so fresh and flavorful.  I love summer.

Today’s DRINK:  I am probably a bad wife.  Today, the hubs professed a desire to eliminate “simple sugars” from his diet for a little while.  I guess that means no wine.

I’m supporting him by drinking his share of this Cellar No. 8 Pinot Noir:

Less for you means more for me, babe.  Sorry.  I love you, but you’re on your own with your weird diet. 🙂

Today’s RUN: Recovery, easy, recovery.  Slow.  It’s hot.

That’s what I told myself when I set out for an hour of slow running in today’s 93*, heat-advisory, high-humidity weather.

And I felt like I was shuffling, and yet?  When I charted my course on mapmyrun.com after the fact, it told me I’d run 6.7 miles.  In under 58 minutes.  Which is 8:40 pace, or something like that.  Not blazing fast, but not the 9:15s I had expected.  Cool.

Today’s QUESTIONAny other anti-dentites out there?  H0w often do you rendezvous with your dentist?

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21 responses to “Reformed Anti-Dentite

  1. I’m kind of relieved to hear I’m not the only one without a recent dental checkup. I believe my last one was about 4 years ago. This week I actually just made an appointment for a checkup, so I’ll be going in for the fun plaque scraping soon. I’m having lots of temperature sensitivity so not looking forward to finding out what the deal is with that.

    Good luck with the root canals!!

  2. First, love your blog.
    Second, I had a similar shady dentist experience. I did need the fillings but the ones he put in are falling apart. Every dentist since has made remarks about their poor quality.
    Had my first root canal a few months ago. Not fun. I’ve run a marathon and had a baby med-free and I would do both in the same day rather than have another root canal.

  3. Oh man, I did the same thing regarding avoiding the dentist at all costs! I can come up with some pre-tty good excuses when needed. 5 years dentist free = lots of money and 5 subsequent appointments.

    Like you, I found a great dentist who paid everything (relatively) painless. Good luck on the root canals! The wine will make everything feel better!

  4. I did pretty much the same thing.I went a few years w/out seeing a dentist. By then my teeth were a mess and I was in pain. I had to get all 4 wisdom teeth removed (I though I was too old for that, but that’s why I was in pain) as well as 2 root canals, some sort of gum treatment, and 3-4 regular fillings/replace old fillings.

    It was a horrible year. Fortunately, I did the smart thing and went to a sleep dentist and it was worth every single penny to not hear that drill!

    Good luck!

  5. My story is similar to yours, sans root canals. I went years without going to the dentist due to a bad experience (and general laziness), and was scared to death the first time I went back. There were 2 cavities, but that was it, thank God!

  6. I get my teeth cleaned and examined every 6 months. I hate the dentist but I also have this super weird fear of losing my teeth! I even have dreams that they fall out. So I stay on top of it!

  7. I’m with Steph! I go to the dentist out of paranoia about what could happen if I don’t go to the dentist.

    Last time we moved, the first dentist I went to here was like your dentist in LA. He told me that I needed 6 fillings all of a sudden. It sounded fishy, so I took a gamble and waited 6 months for an appointment with someone else. Good thing. I didn’t need any fillings.

    Hope your treatment goes well!

  8. I have an amazing dentist in the city if you want a second opinion. He’s in Chelsea and he’s great- very nice and will take the time to soothe you if you are terrified (as I am of big needles).

  9. Sorry about the root canals! I love the anti-dentite reference 🙂

    I am a regular dentist goer. Never had a cavity! …slowly backs away before getting punched…

  10. OMG I am totally an anti-dentite. I hate it more than the gyno even. After I got married I never bothered with having my husband add me to his dental insurance and then went 3 years without a dental checkup. It’s not so much that I had bad experiences, it’s just that everything about the dentist skeeves me out (all the things you described). I finally broke down and got a checkup in April and had my first 2 cavities ever. I bet I was the biggest baby they had seen in years…I was so nervous! Luckily it actually wasn’t that bad though…it was just the anticipation that killed me.

    Good luck with your root canals!!

  11. Can’t blame you for resenting dentistry after that slipshod basement operation. Good thing you found a place that seems legitimate. It’s weird how different doctors can be. My old kiddy dentist used to read me the general “no soda, no sugary foods, floss every day” act every time I went, and all I could say was, “I already do that. And listen, tooth-nazi, I know you see dirtier mouths than mine every day, so where’s the love? No, i don’t want a sticker.”

    My new dentist for grownups just gives me compliments on my shining teeth. Which is all I really care for from a dentist. Ego boosts for the mouth. Good luck with the root canals — can’t be worse than the last four miles of a marathon, right?

  12. At one point I went a year and a half without going to the dentist (no insurance, as opposed to 2008 when I just forgot to make an appointment, then forgot the appointment I had and couldn’t afford the 50 bucks for the missed appointment…yes, I’m that poor!) and discovered I had 6 cavities that had to be filled and a wisdom tooth that had to go. I sucked it up as it was clear that the problem was with me: I hadn’t been flossing, and it showed. Since I started flossing regularly, things have been better…except for the fact that two of the fillings I had done in that initial 6 filling summer kept falling out.

    I later found out that particular dentist is no longer with the clinic. Probably a reason for it, though its fixed now…though I now have to get another wisdom tooth pulled since I just can’t brush it.

    But I totally get this. One bad girl doctor appointment 7 years ago? I vowed never to go again and I still haven’t. That might be something I should deal with seeing that I’m over 30…but seeing that I was dragged kicking and screaming to ever go in the first place (literally, I spent 12 hours puking from cramps in college and two friends more or less made me make an appointment) the odds of me actually getting up the cajones to figure out how to find one are not so good. Eep.

    I’m actually a big fan of the Cellar 8 Cab. Its cheap, and its potent. Which is also what she said. ::rimshot::

  13. What really grinds me about going to the dentist (I go every 18 months or so) is that no matter how attentive I am to my dental hygiene, I am always asked if I brush and floss. YES EVERY DAY MOTHERFUCKER AHHHH.

    Anyway. Stories like yours with the basement crackpot make me go bonkers. That just plain old sucks. Sorry about the root canals…better to get them done before the teeth get super infected. I had an abscess tooth in high school. Worst pain I’ve ever been in. Yes. Worse than childbirth.

  14. Weird. I got my only cavity IN MY ENTIRE LIFE while living in LA. Although my dentist was in a fancy Wilshire office. After your story, I’m still not sure it was a real cavity, though!

  15. I’m not the best person to ask…since I just had a root canal and am in horrible pain (and sick from the antibiotics). Good luck!!!!

  16. I wouldn’t call myself an anti-dentite, but I don’t love going either. I go every 6 months for a cleaning. I love my hygienist and the dentist is pretty cool too.

    OMG! 2 Root canals?! OUCH! I’ve had one and that was painful. Good luck!
    I have to get my wisdom teeth removed soon too. Not looking forward to that. Ugh.

    It’s so important to take care of your teeth because they affect your heart. Dan had pericarditis (where the sac-like covering around the
    heart (pericardium) becomes inflamed) because he had an infection in his teeth that he didn’t do anything about.

  17. Hahaha great title, it certainly drew me in to read this entry 😀

    I’m not an anti-dentite (nor do I convert to different religions just for the jokes), but I don’t really like when other peoples’ fingers and metal instruments are down my throat

  18. Had to comment, because I am dental student and am 2 years away from being a dentist 🙂 Had my own root canal about 6 1/2 years ago and yeah, it wasn’t all that much fun, but I was pregnant and couldn’t take any pain meds, so if you’re not pregnant, you’ve got that going for you!

    Glad to hear you found a dentist you like! I think that makes all the difference. The dentist I had growing up scared the crap outta me. When I moved in my 20s, I changed dentists and she actually inspired me to give up my career as an accountant and go into dentistry.

    Hoping I’m not going to be one of those scary, preachy dentists, but I will say: “Brush twice, floss once.” Good luck!

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