I learned something new at the dentist today.
Well, two things, actually.
As my kind and gentle hygienist Joanne did her usual great twice-yearly job of picking my teeth clean of that bothersome plaque and tartar build-up, she casually mentioned to me that she also was removing gravel from the site — my mouth, that is, not taking a break to run out to a construction stretch off Erie Boulevard here in Syracuse — and would save it on her working tray to show me when she was finished.
There they were, on that tray below her pick-ax. I asked for clarification and explanation, having never heard that word from her in the two decades she’s been making my pearlies the best they can be.
The hardened little pebbles were tartar, she said, which comes from collected plaque that gathers under the gumline and against the teeth. It builds up more, and more quickly, in some people than in others. It catches bacteria. It best be out of there.
Then Joanne gave me an extra present to take home along with a a pair of toothbrushes. She told me to use these tiny rubber toothpicks to work between my teeth and gums while watching TV at night. It’ll help keep gravel from collecting. So! It is my fault, I think, because that’s how my mind works all the time, not just at the dentist’s office.
And then I waited for the dentist to take his look, and also tell my what he saw from my X-Rays. Doc Martin was happy as he walked through the door and greeted me. No cavities. But he asked me if I was feeling any pain, coupling that with a query if my job status was the same.
That can’t be good, that brain of mine said to itself. And then he told me he could tell that I’ve been clenching my jaw a lot because of stress. That’s leaving some gaps low, near the roots, he explained. He could bond them, but if there’s no pain, and because he knows I’m doing the freelance work gig that’s likely the cause of the stress and these tooth-root woes, he’ll let me be.
These folks do take care of the total me.
Then Doc Martin got his phone, to show me photos taken by his daughter Jacqueline, living in D.C. and working as a staff photographer for The Associated Press. He told me he’s leaving tonight for New Orleans, to go to the Jazz and Heritage Festival. Jackie was an intern up at the big daily when I worked there, and music lover he and I always talked about the concerts I was reviewing.
Then I came back here to the Little Bitty in the Eastwood neighborhood of the city of Syracuse and threw the pair of toothbrushes into the cupboard, so my dear wife Karen and I can take them on vacation when we go to Cape Cod in June. I looked at the SpinBrushes we use at home to whisk away as much of that plaque as possible, and saluted the Colgate Total because Joanne told me our choice in toothpaste left the little plaque she found soft and workable.
Not bad. I’ve had worse trips to the dentist.
Do you fear going to the dentist? What kind of a toothbrush do you use? Does your dentist and hygienist know you well, or is it strictly business, and how would you prefer it?