Coming clean at my dentist’s office

The dental chair stare.

The dental chair stare between Joanne and I.

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.

At bottom right, Joanne's work.

At bottom right, Joanne’s work.

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.

I get to play with my teeth while watching TV by prescription!

I get to play with my teeth while watching TV by prescription!

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.

Plaque remover.

Plaque remover.

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?

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56 thoughts on “Coming clean at my dentist’s office

  1. Oh, I hate the dentist. Well, especially the cleaning because I get the plaque buildup pretty easy. I’m one of those people. I do floss every night though! Great job on your checkup, Mark. Yay, no cavities!

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  2. I went for a very, very embarrassingly long time without going to the dentist. Then, five years ago, I bucked up and not only got back on schedule but I also got braces (full on metal ones too, a week after M got his) to correct my own jaw issues. Because I was paranoid about dentists before I went back, I had taken super care of my teeth and even with my issues only had one cavity.

    My first visit back was awful for me emotionally, M held my hand for the visit. 13 years old, comforting his 33 year old mom LOL

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    • The longer you let it go, the worse it is. I had a stretch from late teens to 30 when I was mostly neglectful of the dentist but not my teeth personally, and the first time back was a fright, as you say. Your M was a good son! Nice job bouncing back for you, by the way!

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    • You can’t go with the guard while you’re on your thespian rebound, Ross! To be or not to be understood by the audience, that is the questoin. But the clenching is no joke. I could tell my dentist was not thrilled about the little gaps showing up by my tension clamping.

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  3. Oh Mark. I have a love-hate relationship with dentists, and always have. (genetics + long time pregnant & nursing) Flossing and rinsing before bed are requirements for me. If I so much as skip one night of flossing, my gums will be tender. I’m intimately acquainted with the rubber toothpick. I’m also a clencher, but better than I used to be. My teeth are so sensitive and my nerves so on edge that I must use a manual soft toothbrush and not press too hard. I brush exactly like the dentist instructs, with the little circles, and it takes 3-4 minutes! I have to have my teeth professionally cleaned every 3 months instead of 6. :/ Without modern dentistry, I don’t know how many teeth I’d still have!

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  4. The things we learn about our friends…! I am a grinder and broke several teeth (one while in China) before submitting to the custom-made nighttime mouthguard. Now I can’t imagine going to bed without it and I swear it has helped me recognize when I’m clenching during waking hours and retraining me to relax. I totally recommend one.

    Also, in addition to flossing (not as much as I’m supposed to, but still a lot) I am addicted to Peroxyl. Not cheap but I feel like the minty peroxide is deep cleaning my entire mouth. Every morning. After an awful childhood of multiple fillings which turned into an adulthood of multiple crowns, I am finally getting good marks from dentist and hygienist.

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    • That’s big-time grinding, Katherine. Teeth-breaking. Ouch. The mouthguard sounds like a safe alternative. I need to stop clenching. I have to find a cue when I’m awake, that’s for sure.

      The minty Peroxyl sounds like a refresher, and healthy for you. My hygienist told me to not overdue the minty fresh mouthwash because it’s too harsh. I would rinse with that every day otherwise, my friend.

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  5. i like reading your blog so much and you are always positive – so i forget that it is stressful working freelance. I hope you feel less stressed – and can relax.
    our dentist is brilliant – our teens don’t fear going and neither do we.

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    • Thanks for the kind words, Rachel. I stay positive in my words, but the body betrays, I guess.

      I’m glad you have such a good dentist that the teens have no fear! That’s a good one. When I was a teen down on Long Island, you could see my heel prints in the mud as my father dragged me from the car into the dentist’s office. I hated it. I had some cavities as a kid, and big teeth growing in over baby teeth that weren’t falling out, and that got me off to a bad relationship about dentistry in general.

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  6. I like my hygiene appointments Mark. I find them relaxing, like getting a massage and I find myself struggling to stay awake. Weird, I know.

    I use a Braun Oral B electric toothbrush that I bought from my dentist. I like getting personal with the team there as well and when I’ve been nervous about things like root canals, they talk to me, tell me what’s going on, approximately how much longer it will take, etc. I really appreciate them. โค
    Diana xo

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    • My two bad experiences with this team were both with root canals. I felt like my mouth had to remain open forever and ever, Diana, and with the first one, the drill bit broke off in my tooth root. It’s still in there, caulked off with magic dental caulk or something. All I know is that I can get through the X-Ray at the airport and the wand doesn’t go off at football games. But since then, all is well.

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      • That’s scary stuff Mark, that would have made me lose it!

        My first root canal attempt was with another dentist. He hadn’t been in practice all that long. When he tried to freeze my tooth, he hit a nerve and I almost went through the roof. Then I went into shock, my heart was racing. The staff ran to a drug store bought a hot water bottle to keep me warm and covered me in blankets.

        Wow I’d forgotten that experience! Anyway lost that tooth because it took me a while to find the courage to go to a dentist again.

        My present dentist costs a bit more and caters to cowards. I’m not terrified anymore but I really trust him and his team.

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      • It’s good to find a dentist that knows how to keep you happy, Diana. Special needs! That last one blew it with you. How could you forget that episode. Oh, my!! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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  7. I don’t mind the dentist one iota. Growing up our family dentist was a family friend – he the dr, she the hygienist, actually. Now their daughter is taking over the practise and I’d still be there myself if not for having moved away. I didn’t have a regular dentist here until I had a car accident and had some major damage in my mouth (well, everywhere, but including my mouth). My father in law, who is a dentist, but a snazzy kind of oral surgeon, referred me to his partner’s daughter, who works in my city. I saw her, she was great, and we’ve been bdfs ever since.

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    • Sorry you had to meet your bdf in such a crashing manner, Jay. Ouch. I want to go up there and give you flowers and candy after the fact. Your hubby’s father came through big time, thankfully. I like the story about your hometown practice getting passed down to their daughter. That’s North American beauty, right there.

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  8. love how you can make a post (worth reading) about anything! I do not like the dentist even a teeny tiny bit. Your photos make me shudder. My favorite dentist story involves a funny mix-up in the mind of my youngest. She confused what happens during a mammogram and the dentist visit and told my husband I had gone to the dentist to have a certain part of me squeezed. Bahahahahaha.

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  9. yikes! i could not even look at this or read some of it, mark. i have huge denist phobia. always have to be coddled through the process. glad you lived to tell )

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  10. Good job with the dentist, Mark. I share your teeth clenching ways. My hygienist suggested a mouth guard from the drug store to retrain my brain. It’s inexpensive and a thought. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  11. I know you may think I am copying you, but really I use Colgate Total, too. I love the flavor with the different combination of gel and paste. So glad you got the ‘pass’ and ‘no cavities’ and hope that the stress is not too bad. I have two of three children who have grit their teeth or grounded them at times. Their significant others tell me it can wake them up and is ‘annoying,’ Mark. Hope you are not doing this while sleeping! My oldest daughter puts a clear bite guard in every night, after she kisses her boyfriend, Micah’s Daddy, ‘Good night.’

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    • Fannie here has suggested I buy a mouth guard at the drug store, and I may do that, Robin. I can’t tell if I’m clenching while I’m sleeping because … I’m sleeping. I’m not grinding, though, just clenching.

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  12. Now, Mark, you gotta change the heads on those every 3 months. They’re getting ratty. We upgraded to Sonicare and man, those replacement heads are pricey! Glad your teeth are clean!

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    • We are having a hard time finding replacement heads in the stores here now. Karen has to send away online. I know, I know. Her brush heads are not in such bad shape. I press way harder. Mine are the ratty ones, Kerbey. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I know, I know. The Sonicare sounds great, but expensive. I’m glad your teeth are clean, too!

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  13. I do not “fear” the dentist, per se, but I just don’t like the dentist. I hate having to have my mouth open that long, and the teeth scraping always feels painful for a couple of days afterward. Congratulations on your awesome check-up! ๐Ÿ˜€

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  14. AY! NO ME GUSTA EL DENTISTA! When I say I don’t like going I mean I really don’t like going. I like, HATE going. I know it’s important and yadayadayada but UGH!!!!!! Mr. B forces me to go twice a year kicking and screaming. I know it’s very juvenile of me but it’s not like I don’t tolerate pain or horrible procedures with my RA. I prefer to inject my RA med in my belly than to go to the dentist. There, this rant is now officially over. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • You are allowed to rant and hate the dentist here, Mrs. B. I give myself my own diabetes shot every morning. (Thigh for months, then stomach for months.) I empathize. And I used to fear the dentist equally as much, but found this great care, and they turned my attitude around. Thankfully.

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