This morning I went to the dentist for the first time in, ahem, approximately 10 years. I really have no excuse other than the usual laziness and fear and procrastination. But I finally realized that I'm probably pushing my dental health luck and I've been afraid that my teeth are all going to fall out the moment I arrive in Burundi, where they don't have wonderful advances in dental technology.
The good news is that the dentist said the damage isn't as bad as it could be after 10 years. I brush every day and floss once or twice a week. Not perfect, but not the worst record. I don't drink soda or fruit juices and I'm getting enough calcium. My major tooth enemy is chocolate.
I have cavities. A good portion of them are from the 20-year-old silver fillings in my teeth that have deteriorated and allowed new cavities to move in. (Note to anyone in their 30s who had silver fillings as a youngster: Get those checked out. Apparently they have a "shelf life" of 10 to 15 years and the dentist was amazed my old ones hadn't completely broken apart.)
I was imagining root canals and giant pliers but all my cavities can be fixed with new and improved resin fillings. The dentist also told me that novocain comes in much smaller, less painful needles than it did 10 years ago and they apply a topical numbing gel before the needle goes in. We'll see how excited I am about novocain's breakthroughs after five appointments within the first two weeks of July. Oh, yeah, I said five within two weeks.
Guess how much our insurance covers? None of it! I actually had to set up a finance plan to pay for all my fillings. So you'd better believe I'm going to keep this investment shiny and new looking. On the way home I stopped off at CVS for an alcohol-free mouthwash and those little flossing sticks that make it easier. The dentist said that after I eat chocolate I should at the very least rinse my mouth if not brush. Chocolate sits on your teeth, not only staining them but also allowing the bad bacteria to gobble up all the sugar.
So a lesson to the kids out there. Go to the dentist. It sucks. But it might not be as bad as you fear.