When I was very young and I got my first cavity ever, I proudly told the pretty dentist assistant that I would make sure to brush extra well so the tiny cavity I had wouldn’t grow any bigger. My mother and the pretty assistant smiled and laughed a little before I was informed that no amount of brushing was going to help. What did that do? It told me that once a cavity began to form, there was nothing in my own power I could do to stop that bad thing from becoming worse.
When I was in high school, a dentist complimented the whiteness of my teeth despite me never having used any type of whitening product. The very next year, one of his assistants measured my gums and not only told me I was on the road to gingivitis but that my gums were basically at a level about 1-2 millimeters away from when they’d start telling me my gums were “bad”. When I asked what I could do to solve the problem, I was informed that regular brushing and flossing would keep them at their current levels, but nothing I could do under my own power would ever fix the damage already done. My gums were doomed to stay at their detrimental levels unless I underwent surgery, which was hinted to be a course of action I would rather not take.
Sometime else in high school, a kind dentist chatted me up and spoke about lies toothpaste and mouth wash and other products tell you. The major one? That the product will help you regain tooth enamel. Apparently this is something that simply can’t be done. Once you teeth begin to wear away, you can only hope to reinforce what you still have, not regain what you’ve lost.
So over the years, my outlook on oral hygiene has been that there’s nothing I can do but hope to slow the inevitable process of my spiral into full dentures at some potentially not so advanced age.
Complete offense meant to my dentists over the years, but I feel like there was a better way to encourage me to keep up my oral hygiene than convince me there was nothing I could do to help myself improve.
This idea of helplessness started off with my very first offense in oral hygiene. My very first cavity. My very first accident at an age where I didn’t even understand what a cavity was. Scare tactics may work on some, but I felt more and more belittled and useless each time I was more informed on my own health. Maybe it’s true that I can’t stop a cavity from getting worse or heal gum and tooth decay, but out of all the things in this world that I’ve been handed covered in sugar and sweetness and lies, I wish oral hygiene was one of them. Tell me I can take charge and heal myself. Tell me I can change a downward spiral and work my way back up.
You may think the words of a dentist may have no effect on the rest of your life other than your mental health about gum disease, but that style of thinking – the idea that you can’t fix something about yourself – that’s going to seep over into the rest of your thoughts whether you like it or not and whether you take notice or not.
I wish my dentists had lied to me and told me I could brush and floss my way into a perfect smile all on my own. Because once you start to think you can’t improve, what’s to stop you from not trying to even stay level? What’s to stop me from throwing out my toothbrush entirely and relying on gum or the occasional mouth rinse to hide the smell?
This rant isn’t about oral hygiene anyway.