Friday, February 4, 2011

Dentists and Oreos

Anyone that takes care of their teeth will soon realize a semi-annual trip to the dentist is well worth the trouble.  Just like automobiles, our teeth will last longer and stay in better shape with a little preventative maintenance.

If you wait until your car is smoking and overheated before taking it in for service chances are it is going to cost you a lot more in the end.  Much in the same way if you wait to go to the dentist only after you have a sore tooth or are in extreme pain, it stands to reason not only is it going to cost more and be more painful, but you very well may end up losing some of your teeth in the process.

Therefore, for the vast majority of my life I have visited the dentist twice per year whether I felt I needed it or not.  There was a period in my early 20s where I skipped a few years, but I soon realized what a mistake that was after having to play catch-up for a few years which included numerous cavities being filled, as well as a root canal complete with crown.  After that lesson learned, I now attend my dental appointments religiously* and haven't missed one in years.  
* Perhaps "religiously" isn't an accurate descriptor since I'm unaware of any religion which only requires two visits a year, but I digress.
So what is the point of all this besides me rambling on about a random subject?  Well, my point is it seems like there is a routine to all of my dentist appointments.  First, I go to the dentist and they determine if we need any x-rays this time around.  If so we get those taken care of right away, but if not they skip ahead and clean my teeth, check for any cavities (which I haven't had in well over a decade), hand me a few samples of toothpaste or a new toothbrush, and that's that.  I schedule an appointment for six months down the road, and I head out the door feeling relieved that I somehow managed to dodge the cavity bullet one more time.

However, inevitably somewhere before or after the cleaning my dental hygienist will ask me if I have been flossing.  I'm smart enough to know they can probably tell, so I don't bother to lie about it and always admit that no... I don't floss.  I typically get complimented on my brushing and am always told I have nice teeth (from the perspective of a dentist or hygienist at least) but they will usually tell me that I need to floss in order to get all of the plaque from between the teeth, yadda, yadda, yadda.  The lecture doesn't last long primarily because they probably give the same speech 15 times a day and know it likely won't do any good, but I listen anyway as the hygienist hands me a package of floss as if my lack of flossing was simply due to a matter of supply and demand.

This probably explains why I have six or eight packages of floss at home - because they give me a new one every six months and I can't seem to use them up as fast as they restock my supply.  So typically after each dentist appointment I decide now is the time I'm going to start flossing.  The next evening I bust out the floss and go between each and every tooth to the best of my ability.  The day after that I floss again, but maybe with a little less vigor and taking a little less time to do a perfect job.  A day after that and I'm down to speed flossing.

Soon enough - less than a week after my dental cleaning, I stop flossing altogether.  I know I should, but it just seems like such a hassle.  I brush my teeth so flossing just seems like it should be "extra".  As the months pass, flossing isn't even considered nor do I feel any guilt about skipping it, but next thing you know I flip the page on a calendar and there I see it... the date of my next dentist appointment.

Drat.  I know I've been slacking, and now I've got less than two weeks before I see the dentist again.  So obviously now is the time to start flossing with the hopes I can make up for the last six months in a matter of 10-14 days.  Then, the night before the big appointment I go all out.  I brush my teeth for longer than I typically would ensuring I cover each and ever side of each tooth as best as I can.  I floss with regular floss and then make a second pass with a floss pick to ensure I didn't miss anything.  I'll even go a step further and rinse with some mouthwash to get any remaining "stuff" out of my mouth and send it down the drain.

This all got me thinking one day.  Why do we always prepare for the dentist as if we are cramming for a mid-term Biology Exam?  Do we really think one or two good brushings and a few days of flossing is going to make up for six months of neglect?  Do we honestly think the hygienist won't notice that we haven't been doing as much as we should be to take care of our teeth?

When you really think about it, why should we try to impress our dentists and hygienists?  They charge the same amount for a cleaning whether my teeth are clean or if they haven't been brushed for three years, so maybe I should make them work for it a little.

So how about instead of preparing for my cleaning as if I was heading out to a Senior Prom, I decide to get my money's worth out of them by eating a mixture of peanuts, caramel, and Oreos 15 minutes before my actual cleaning?  Its sort of like driving your car through a gigantic puddle right before you take it to the car wash - it isn't going to help anything, but it surely makes the before and after a whole lot more impressive.

Is that wrong?

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