Monday, November 26, 2012

Confession #1 - Dental Phobia

This week I'm going to write posts about things I've had on my mind but have avoided talking about here on this blog because I'm embarrassed or even slightly ashamed about them. I'm calling it The Confession Series. 

I have horrible gums. My parents did not take me or my sister to the dentist when I was  a kid so I saw a dentist for the first time when I was an adult.  I have never had a traumatic experience with the dentist, but every appointment is A Procedure which leads me to be very nervous about every appointment.  And since we've moved a lot recently, I'm forever having to explain to new people that 1) my dental history isn't pretty and 2) I am terrified of the dentist.  The last periodontist I had actually told me that I had the worst gums for a non-smoker that he had ever seen.  Thanks for that, Dr. Shamefully Awful Bedside Manner.

It is only recently that I've been able to talk about this.  I was so ashamed of my teeth, my gums, and my overall dental health for a long time.  But it feels like I'm not being honest if I don't talk about it here because the fucking dentist is such a big part of my life. I have had oral surgery twice in the last six months.  I have more ideas for how to eat soft foods than gluten free dinners. I have had more dentist appointments in the last year than Zelda has had mouse toys underneath the refrigerator. I spend about half an hour A DAY on dental hygiene.  It doesn't matter if I'm out of town, tired, running late, or want to be lazy. My mouth is scrubbed clean twice a day.

Brush, floss, gum stimulator, floss some more, proxy brushes, and tongue scaling before rinsing with Listerine.  Twice a day. Every day.

I get really annoyed when people make jokes about bad teeth. It's really code for bashing the poor and indigent.  I feel very lucky that every cent I have earned this year could be spend on dental care (EVERY PENNY), but if I couldn't afford all this random oral surgery that is not covered by our seriously shitty dental insurance, why should I be ashamed?  I had to stop at the post office after having a cavity filled (for all that I have crappy gums, it is the one and only cavity I've ever had in my life) and when I mentioned that I was talking weird because I had the cavity filled, the guy working at the post office mentioned that he's scared of the dentist because he hasn't been in so long.  His situation is not uncommon and I am absolutely sick and tired of all the shaming that goes on about people with bad dentistry. Sometimes you can have absolutely amazing hygiene and still have shitty results.

Growing up in poverty sucked.  A lot of my problems could probably have been avoided with a rigorous dental regimen when I was a kid.  But I didn't have access to that. I am not poor anymore and I can take steps to ensure that my poor dental health isn't hurting my overall health.  But I am one of the lucky ones who escaped poverty and could do something about my poor dental health history.  So the next time you're tempted to make a joke about missing teeth/rotting teeth/bad breath/needing braces/whatever dental issue you make jokes about, remember that it's not always a choice.  Sometimes it's the reality of life - you have to pay rent and buy food before the dentist and sometimes there's just not enough money for that "luxury."


  1. Our dentist does annual/biannual clinics for kids who otherwise wouldn't get care. It's also the only office in town that takes access. (Coverage for kids in the system.)

  2. My confession: my bottom teeth are very widely spaced between each of the middle four teeth. So are my brother's teeth. Strangely, it's almost the same pattern and there's a part of me that likes that fact - that he and I have something as strange as a gap pattern in common. I'm glad I never got braces because they would have taken that away from me.

  3. It’s true that not everyone could afford the “luxury” of corrective dental procedures, and it’s a sad fact that there are people out there who would discriminate other people just for having bad teeth. Yes, having dental problems isn’t always a choice, but the same goes with having good dental health. There are many people who can afford to have the latter, but choose to neglect it anyway. Thus, it’s where the general misconception came from; that dental problem means poor oral health and hygiene.

    Bettye Primm @ Back Mountain Dental


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