I haven’t been writing much lately – blame it on work, writer’s block or lack of motivation (do writers still make money?) – but I found renewed inspiration this week in the unlikeliest of sources: my new dentist.
Every trip to the dentist is a gem, but this visit could be a lesson for all of us on why you should imagine eminent doom in order for life to pleasantly exceed expectations. Also, not everything is a lesion.
First, some background.
For myriad reasons, I haven’t been to the dentist in two years. Really, more like two and a half, but at this point, it’s been so long I’m only throwing out numbers. This is bad.
In December, I made an appointment for the second of January, which gave me a month to floss the shit out of my teeth in hopes of grating off cavities or hiding them in a coat of Crest.
A trip to the dentist feels like I’m confessing my sins to the patron saint of oral hygiene so he can judge my wine drinking habits and absolve me with fluoride. I was not optimistic.
For starters, I could only assume there was plaque build-up because every time I’ve ever gone to the dentist I’ve been told that plaque runneth over in my mouth. Plus, my gums were sensitive/bled periodically, there were rumors I was a grinder (unsubstantiated), and, if I sucked in air too fast like a vacuum, my teeth felt weird.
Something seemed wrong and also like cancer.
*Note – due to severe anxiety, I assume everything is either cancer or diabetes.
Furthermore, I recently chipped off a tiny bit of a tooth after biting down too hard on a fork. One aggressive nibble and I cracked. This was concerning because a) my teeth must have the consistency of a 90-year-old’s bones, b) I’ll never get that piece back – WHERE IS IT?, and c) how hungry was I?!
If the chipping had occurred amidst a death-defying motorcycle crash and I’d escaped scot-free except for a chunk of my incisor, then I would be a badass. However, this was more like I’d twisted my ankle walking the dog.
Then, three weeks before my appointment, I noticed a small, translucent gray spot on one of my front teeth near the gum line.
“Great, now I’m rotting,” I said.
The spot didn’t hurt, it just sat there like a bruised apple.
“You’re going to need a new tooth,” I told myself via the mirror. “All you had to do was floss.”
After Googling, I came to the conclusion this spot was a lesion, a term I typically associated with horrible viruses such as leprosy. I should be quarantined like those people who get snatched at the airport with Zika. Worse, the kind of remedial procedures were pricey, and my insurance only covered a percentage of the cost.
What an exciting way to spend my Christmas money!
I made a temporary budget for January:
Tooth lesion – TBD but prob THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS
On the morning of my appointment, I brushed three times and diligently flossed as a last ditch Hail Mary pass before facing my fate.
As soon as I walked into the exam, I spilled my guts to the hygienist.
“How’s everything?” She asked.
“Well, I have a lesion,” I informed her. “Who knows what else is in there.”
“What’s a lesion?” She asked.
“Hmm, I’ll take a look but that’s not a lesion. I don’t even know what a lesion is.”
Somewhere, the clouds parted and Tupac got his wings.
The hygienist cleaned, poked, scraped and scrubbed my teeth, noting that the spot-formerly-known-as-a-lesion was not even a cavity and that, in fact, I had no cavities at all.
“Your teeth look pretty good,” she noted.
I KNEW YOU DIDN’T NEED TO FLOSS.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah, you just have some recession in your gums.”
Apparently, I’d been brushing my teeth wrong, and my gums were eroding like the Gulf Coast. I wasn’t aware there was more than one way to spread toothpaste across your mouth, but actually you can jam your brush up like a prod.
“Hold it as you do a pen,” she explained.
“Oh okay,” I said. “Sure.”
Whatever, bitch, I HAD NO CAVITIES.
She also pointed out I was flossing wrong.
“Just be glad I’m flossing,” I joked, but no, seriously.
Shorty after, the dentist reiterated everything the hygienist said.
“It’s just a blemish,” he explained.
That dentist could have told me my molars were hemorrhaging, and I’d have been thrilled.
“As long as it’s not a lesion!”
I wished my new dentist would give some advice to my old dentist, who tried to whore out $200 deep cleanings every time I came in. I don’t even want to know what that guy would have prescribed.
My dentist added, “Your teeth look great.”
Fuck yeah, they do.
And with that, I got a new toothbrush, toothpaste samples, and made an appointment for my 6-month check-up.
Because preventative care!
Here’s to 2018 and living life like everything is a lesion, knowing you probably don’t even have a cavity. Or to put it in a different context: don’t worry about North Korea.
On the way home, I bought myself a bottle of Merlot as a reward.