I had a brief flirtation with proper dental care about 10 years ago. I blogged about the experience a few times from June to October, 2007 if you care to go have a look. It’s understandable if you don’t. Blogs are usually regarded as things of the moment. Archives are just there for completists and stalkers.
So to recap, a piece of a molar broke off when I bit into a burrito, exposing nerve endings poking out of a Vegemite-hued crust of tooth decay. I hadn’t been to a dentist since 2000, but this broken tooth forced me to go back.
He was the same dentist I had gone to in 2000. He reminded me somewhat of Whit Bissell, albeit less likely to want to turn Michael Landon into a teenage werewolf. He did quality work and was not stingy with nitrous. With the help of this dentist, I was going to experience a toothy renaissance. Root canals were performed. Crowns were molded and set in place. Tartar was blasted away using a state-of-the-art torture device. A $650 mouth guard was made to protect my teeth from nocturnal grinding. A home whitening kit was purchased. Thousands of dollars were spent.
After a while, I decided the hell with it. I disliked wearing the mouth guard and got sick of the dentist pressuring me into buying more and more shit. I should have just switched dentists. Instead, I swore them off completely. No point in putting much effort into taking care of my teeth, I thought. Even If I did nothing other than brush, they would probably outlast my liver.
Armed with an immense capacity for denial, I set about neglecting my teeth. Years went by and other than receding gums and a couple of cavities big enough for me to feel them with my tongue, everything was going swimmingly. Then in January of 2016, I lost a filling while eating a sandwich in the cafeteria at work. It was about the size of a pea, which is pretty big for a filling. Fuck it, I reasoned. I’ll just chew with the other side of my mouth.
Overall, this worked out well with some downside. Food would get stuck in the hole in my tooth on a regular basis and I’d have to dig it out with a coffee stirrer, much to the chagrin of anyone having to witness the spectacle. I was also getting a cavity under a crown at the gum line in a molar on the other side of my mouth. The presence of these nooks for food to biodegrade in gave me what Rebecca charitably referred to as “fun breath.” No big deal, I figured. I’m old. My breath is supposed to smell like a baboon fart and if I brushed my teeth before kissing Rebecca, it showed her how considerate I am. Months passed and the cavities continued to grow.
This past Sunday, I bit into a pot sticker and there was not enough tooth left to keep the crown in place. I heard a disconcerting crunching sound and I knew that molar was fucked. I reached into my mouth and wiggled the crown. It was barely attached. I wiggled it again. It broke off entirely.
Rebecca remarked on how bad the thing smelled when I waved it in front of me. I took her word for it. Due to a combination of genetics and poor life choices, what I can smell is pretty much limited to whiskey and homeless-people shit. Rebecca poured rubbing alcohol in an empty plastic medicinal-weed container and I dropped the crown into it. The liquid turned cloudy with the remnants of tooth and meals from long ago.
Tuesday was my first day back at work after the holiday and also the first day when I could make a dental appointment. The broken tooth didn’t hurt at all and I probably would have done nothing about it if I hadn’t already promised to have it looked at. Looking through my insurance company’s website, I came across a dentist I went to in the early 90s. I remembered him doing a good job and he never tried to sell me a bunch of extra crap.
I ended up choosing him and I’m glad I did. The two teeth in question need to get pulled, but that was to be expected. I have no desire for a perfect smile, just a functional mouth to chew my food and better breath when I kiss Rebecca.
I may even start flossing regularly, but I doubt it.