When I was 18, I went on a medical mission trip to Mexico. I was on the dental team and I will never forget how people waited for hours to voluntarily have their teeth pulled. Our clinics were set up in classrooms, churches, and sometimes under tents in people's yards. We brought state of the art equipment and followed strict sanitary guidelines, but the conditions were rudimentary and makeshift and people still lined up every day to have their teeth extracted without protest or hesitation.
What I didn't comprehend back then was that these people understood how serious tooth pain is. When they came to our clinics, they just cared about eliminating the pain even if it meant enduring some to relieve it. They didn't grimace or flinch when the doctor cut their gums open and scraped decayed tooth fragments out. They just wanted to feel better.
Fast forward to last Thursday. I had a routine teeth cleaning at my new dentist. The last one tortured me. I hadn't had a cleaning in 2 years so I was looking forward to having that super clean feeling from all the scraping and polishing. I was also excited about my new toothbrush and sample sized toothpaste dentists always give after appointments.
What I didn't expect was news that I had 6 (SIX!?!?!!!!) teeth in need of crowns, porcelain caps, and fillings. 6. I was dumbfounded. "But I floss every day!!" I protested. It didn't matter. All of my teeth with silver fillings (6) need major work because apparently silver shrinks over time allowing bacteria to get under the filling and inside the teeth. Awesome.
So, I am now in the process of repairing some of my teeth. Insurance only covers 2 of them so I'm also faced with the weird dilemma of determining how much the health of my teeth is really worth to me. Once again, I have found myself in a chair with torture devices in my mouth while someone drills holes in my teeth. All I can think about are those people in the remote Mexican jungle who lined up voluntarily for this stuff, and now I get it. This crap hurts and is a total schedule killer. A mouthful of rotten teeth? Ain't nobody got time for that. Pull those suckers out.
I don't really want to lose all of my teeth though. I think that's why I'm writing about them once again. (I've done this before). But I'm scared that's the road ahead of me and I'm totally bummed out about it. I also got news that my gums have receded 4 mm (5 mm being the beginning of the danger zone) and the inside of my teeth are super soft and more susceptible to cavities and decay. My issues are 95% genetics and 5% my fault.
Here's what I know about teeth:
1. They are fragile. Watch what your chompers are chomping on. They could break while eating carne asada.
2. Pretty teeth aren't always a sign of healthy teeth. Mine are gorgeous and totally rotten.
3. They are important. When 1 (or 6) of them hurt, your whole mouth suffers. And it's really hard to eat.
4. They're not meant to last forever. Or maybe they are, I don't know. Mine probably aren't going to last forever.
5. They are expensive to repair.
6. It is really hard to reverse the condition of teeth. Take care of them while they are healthy.
7. Genetics play a huge role in the state of teeth. If you have bad teeth like me, it is okay to blame your ancestors. They did this to you.
8. I brush my teeth too hard. If you do too, stop it. They will eventually all fall out.
9. Teeth are a very personal issue. While discovering just how poor health my teeth are in, I've grown really insecure about it. I feel like I need to follow up every conservation about them with, "I brush and floss all day long, it's not my fault!"
10. It's hurts when you drill them. Do everything in your power to avoid this.
The worst part about this ordeal is that I have to be an adult and deal with the drilling and the payments and the torture. I don't want to. I want to ignore my 6 decaying teeth. I want to avoid the dentist for the rest of my life. But I am an adult. I am going to go back to the chair, voluntarily, to take care of it. Because I finally get it: my mouth hurts and I just want to feel better.