Apparently, April is Oral Health Month. Have you noticed in the movies, they always give the villains crooked, discolored teeth while the good guys display straight, white ones? (Austin Powers excepted.) What makes me laugh are movies where the story takes place in the 1600s but the heroes still have all their teeth, perfect and gleaming. In reality, life expectancy back then was 35 and the life expectancy of one’s teeth even shorter. Someone fortunate enough to reach my age would pretty much be gumming it.
If you promise not to hate me, I’ll tell you a secret. I’ve never had a cavity. Back in the early 1970s, our provincial government funded sessions where dental professionals came into the schools each year with a giant set of teeth and a massive toothbrush to teach kids how to brush properly. I took it to heart.
When my wisdom teeth required extraction in my thirties, my dentist did one side at a time and those wise old choppers were reluctant to divorce themselves from my gums. At one point, I think the man braced one foot on my forehead for leverage. Afterward, I developed the dreaded “dry socket” that leaves nerves exposed and keeps you in pain for weeks. A month later when I went in for the opposite side, I was told it was highly unlikely I’d experience the same thing. Or maybe I misheard and they actually said “highly likely.” You can guess the rest. What a nightmare.
It was enough to make me deeply thankful for my otherwise good teeth.
Apparently, one of the reasons for my good fortune is a low acid environment in my mouth—which, ironically, has a downside. Tartar buildup becomes more stubborn than normal. Or so they tell me. So every six months I find myself lying prone, my head in my hygienist’s lap as she chisels away on my teeth. (Have you noticed dental hygienists tend to be beautiful? I wonder if it’s a requirement?) It’s a long process and sometimes I need to return for a second session because my hygienist’s arms grow tired. Once, I saw her break into a sweat as she worked loose a chunk of plaque the size of a Volkswagen.
So she talks me into an electric toothbrush.
Two weeks later, I buy one, take it home, and let it charge overnight. I study the instructions, squeeze out the paste, stick the contraption inside my mouth, and press the button. Immediately, my entire head starts vibrating. Toothpaste splatters the walls and I see about 14 of my own eyeballs arranged in a jagged row three inches in front of my face.
People use these on their kids? I think. If someone had tried sticking one of these in my mouth when I was a toddler, I’d still be in therapy. With a mouthful of dentures.
But, I’m a grownup. And having shelled out big bucks for this thing, I’m determined to make it work. I shove it around all four quadrants of my mouth, entrusting the sadistic little device to deliver as promised. After two minutes it starts to pulse, telling me I can stop. Thank Heavens.
The room stops spinning. I mop my face, my hair, the mirror, and the sink. My teeth do feel cleaner, at least that’s what I tell myself. And, like most things, I suspect I’ll get used to it. If not, you can be sure you’ll be reading about it in the weeks to come.
Take care of those teeth and gums. Yeah, Baby.