Thursday, May 1, 2014

An Historic Trip to the Dental Hygienist

I went to a dental hygienist today for the first time in 30 to 50 some odd years.

I don't know how long it has been for sure, maybe never. I got regular checkups when I was a kid but was lucky not to have any cavities. That was the 1970s, and the idea of getting your teeth cleaned every 6 months may not have yet made it to the Southwest Iowa hinterlands where I grew up. I don't recall.

Then I was on my own in the big city far away, and one of the side benefits of not getting hooked is that having no spouse constantly prodding you to do these things that you are supposed to do. Not to mention, there is a school of thought that tooth cleaning is a scam.

I had my first cavity three years back, a wisdom tooth that had to be pulled on a Saturday at an emergency dental clinic on a visit to Portland, Oregon. That experience did not recommend itself for a return visit.

This past fall I had my second cavity, which took a root canal and a crown, and a third cavity that got by with a filling. It seemed it might be time to get with the program. Of course, I got the lecture from the dentist.

Today then was the first visit to the dental hygienist. I experienced a procedure with some type of waterpik that I can only describe as sand blasting. I writhed in enough discomfort and produced enough blood that the hygienist couldn't complete the full cleaning. I am to make a return visit where I'll be given a local while they clean half my teeth, then come back a month later and get another local for the other half.

In sum, it's going to take 3 visits to the hygienist to clean these teeth of mine. On the other hand, I've avoided 30 to 60 visits by not going every 6 to 12 months for 30 years.

The hygienist had lots of impertinent questions like, "How often do you floss?" "As often as I need to." was my answer. Let's just say I may still be on my second pack of floss purchased quite a few years back and leave it at that.

There was also a chart where the hygienist took lots of measurements of my gums and wrote down 2s and 3s in blue, and 4s and 5s in red. I would say that my average was about 3.5, and it made me feel good that I got a mix of blues and reds. It worried me when I asked the hygienist if I should be worried about all the reds and she told me that she sometimes sees patients' gums healing while they are sitting in the chair.

She ended the first visit by giving me 2 tubes of Sensodyne, tried to sell me an electric toothbrush, and sent me off to rest my weary teeth and gums. She didn't say anything but it's going to be ice cream for dinner tonight.

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