Every six months I voluntarily open my mouth and allow my teeth and gums to be scraped, scrutinized, prodded, and sometimes photographed. I believe that the health of your teeth is largely due to genetics. My sister's teeth often fell victim to cavities. But my brother and I, who didn't brush our teeth any more than Jen, share three cavities between us. Luck of the draw, I say.
However, over the years I must admit a certain amount of smugness developed from my undeniable ability to defend my teeth against cavity bugs. I mean...from my hereditary luck. I would bask in the awe of my friends every time I could slip into a conversation that I had not one cavity, or as the years went by just one, or now at 37 only two. Then I would add that whole bit about it just being genetic luck while silently assuring myself that my toothbrush and I were yin and yang, Bo and Duke, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
And so I diligently scheduled my dentist appointments every six months since it was like turning in a paper that I'd already marked with an A. It just made me feel good.
About ten years ago, I started going to a new dentist. We'll call him Dr. Dentist. And with Dr. Dentist my run of "A's" was over. Along with my self-esteem.
At first everything was business as usual. During my first few visits I heard the expected, "Melissa, your teeth just look great! Such healthy teeth! There's nothing I can do for you!"
And then one cold winter day. My dental hygienist had just finished up and Dr. Dentist came in to take a look. I settled back in my chair prepared for the usual.
"Melissa! Your teeth are just so healthy. Just really great, those teeth! But, Melissa..." As he paused I stared wide-eyed at him. What more could he possibly have to say? "...have you ever considered braces?"
No, I had never considered braces. My teeth weren't terrible, but if I'm being honest, they weren't anywhere near being straight. Both my brother and sister had had braces as kids, but I did not. Maybe it's because my parents thought I was tough and could handle crooked teeth? I'd never really thought about it and honestly didn't think they were that bad.
And only two cavities...that had to count for something, right?
Dr. Dentist did not share my view. Over the next several years, Dr. Dentist ended every visit like this, "Melissa! Your teeth just look amazing. So healthy! There's nothing I can do for you. But Melissa....have you ever considered braces?"
On these same visits I'd also hear, "So you live in Bailey, right? All...the...way...out...in Bailey. You know, I almost bought a practice out there."
And as the years went by, "You know Melissa, you're not too old for braces. They have Invisilign now. Nobody would ever know. My wife had her teeth straightened when she was 40. Never too late."
But I assured myself that I wasn't so vain. So my teeth were a little crooked? That made me real, right? Until...
"Melissa! Really great teeth. So healthy! You know, you could hold on to those much longer if you considered braces. Have you ever considered braces? It's never too late, you know. Preventative care, really."
Hold the phone. Preventative care? I could lose my teeth earlier because they're crooked? I'm all about preventative care...I think. I excercise. That's super preventative, right? Why shouldn't I do the same thing for my teeth?
And on that day I surprised Dr. Dentist by saying, "Please, Dr. Dentist, tell me more about braces. I am interested!" I think Dr. Dentist nearly fell on the floor.
And so my Invisilign adventure began. I spent the next three and a half years straigtening my teeth. But straighten they did. And every visit to Dr. Dentist was met with a proud nod.
Today. My teeth are straight. I only wear a nighttime retainer to keep them that way. And I will hopefully hold on to these babies for the rest of my life. So last Tuesday I went in for my regular six month check-up. It's "A" time again. Straight teeth, still just two cavities. Could Dr. Dentist be more proud of me? I'm probably like his star pupil or something.
"Melissa! Your teeth just look great. Really, just so healthy! And straight!" I settle back in the chair. Ahh, things are back to normal at last.
"Did you drive all the way from Bailey today? Wow, Bailey! That's really out there. You're really in the mountains. How do you like living in Bailey?"
"Well, Dr. Dentist. You live in the mountains, too," I say with a small laugh as I point out the obvious.
He chuckles. "W-elll...kinda. But you really live in the mountains. You know, I almost bought a practice out there. Almost. I was really young then. But, you know," and here he gives me a conspiratorial look, "I just wasn't sure if maybe I would be paid in chickens, or something like that." He laughs loudly behind his mask.
Ok, whatever, make fun of where I live. Let's just get to the part where my teeth get that "A" I've been waiting for.
"Anyway, Melissa. Your teeth just look great today. Really healthy. But, Melissa....(aw crappity, crap, crap!)...have you ever considered whitening your teeth?"
"Um, not really. I did try once with some store bought kind, but it didn't really work."
He scrutinizes my teeth, scrapes one thoughtfully, polishes another with his gloved finger, then says compassionately, "Well, Melissa. It might take you two, three even four times to get them white."
Cavity smugness...obliterated. I give up.
"Okay, Dr. Dentist, I'll have them whitened. Do you take chickens?"