Back to the point: I shared this shameful secret with my friends who replied, quite boisterously, "OMG THAT DOESN"T COUNT EVERYONE PICKS THEIR NOSE!" I had no idea. My Catholic upbringing had left me with the impression that no one ever deviates from the expected course EXCEPT me, and 'tis shameful indeed when you do. I felt immediately relieved to know that I was not the only adult nose picker on the planet, but in fact, I was in good company! Did you know that people fart, too? Good god, we're a bunch of heathens up in here!
You might be curious how this parlays into a post about dental hygiene, but here's the deal: just like nose picking, no one talks about it. Last year I cracked a molar on the bottom right side and felt immense shame because I existed years without having dental insurance, missing out on regular cleanings and check ups, but also because for many years I actually had dental insurance I still didn't go. Because I was ashamed. When I started talking to friends and family about it, it was like the sun started shining just that brighter. I was not alone. When I had to face a complete extraction of the tooth because the crack went below the gumline, people started outing themselves as having implants too. It is surmised that the tooth cracked because of a combination of things: lack of preventative care for many years, inefficient flossing, braces for five years (where the molar was wrapped in one of those metal sleeves), and smoking.
As a culture, we've become obsessed with aesthetics of everything and so I figured the most people did to care for their teeth outside of regular check ups was the overuse of whitening strips. Turns out, people seem to do a whole host of interesting things to their mouths to get by. I had a cavity the size of Texas on a tooth and nursed it with Anbesol and Tylenol until I saw my dentist. I was terrified that it would cost me millions of dollars and more pain than humanly manageable to fill...but he looked at it, shot me up with novacaine, filled it in and I feel great. There is still some lingering hesitation with going to the dentist, but I am one of the fortunate few who does have excellent coverage. My dentist, Dr. Butts*, and his hygienist are absolutely wonderful, as well. That definitely helps. I have an appointment on Friday for another cavity filling, so I've been thinking a lot about my dental compulsions and rituals. Naturally, I've grown curious about other folks and what they do.
When I stick to my tooth-care routine, it goes something like this:
MORNING: use inhaler (Symbicort, for asthma), rinse mouth with Listerine, brush teeth AND tongue, full-on Listerine swishI use the following products:
THROUGHOUT THE DAY: I floss at my desk after meals, though I am considering bringing in a toothbrush/toothpaste for after meals or sugary snacks
EVENING: floss for about two minutes, brush teeth AND tongue, 30 second swish with ACT mouthwash
TWICE YEARLY: cleanings with the sweetest hygienist ever
- Listerine Advanced Antiseptic Mouthwash with Tartar Protection in Artic Mint
- Crest ProHealth Enamel Shield Toothpaste in Fresh Mint
- Crest ProHealth Glide floss for Sensitive Gums
- ACT Anticavity Flouride Rinse in Cinnamon
- Oral-B Pulsar toothbrush (I need to replace my Sonicare, which died)
* Yes, really. Dr. Butts!
[Image courtesy: Tooth Brushes by the Curiosity Shoppe - $80]
DISCLAIMER: I am keenly aware of how outrageously expensive dental hygiene and dental procedures are for people with and without insurance. I have close friends and family who have had to face some pretty profound issues with their teeth and the costs inherent in caring for them. With or without regular dental visits, I do think it's valuable to share knowledge about what we use to care for our teeth on a day to day basis, and that's what I'm trying to talk about here.