Advice · Health · Inspirational

My 3-Hour (And Slightly Terrifying) Visit To The Dentist

Bill Murray during the dentist scene in Little Shop of Horros
Hilarious! Bill Murray during the dentist scene in Little Shop of Horrors

By now, if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you already know I absolutely dread going to the doctor. However, this doesn’t usually include going to the dentist, which, I find quite odd since I’ve had a million dental procedures done in my life. These procedures include the extraction of at least five teeth to make room for other teeth and my wisdom teeth, braces, sealants on my back eight molars, a palate expander, a surgical procedure to prevent a lower tooth from twisting to it’s pre-braces state, etc. I’ve been shot with Novocaine a handful of times (and cried each time), and I’ve even experienced a very abrupt inflammation of the gums in my entire mouth about 6 years ago. It was so painful that the slightest touch or bump of my mouth sent the tears free flowing. Upon an emergency visit to the dentist, I found out that it was likely caused by stress and went away on its own with prescribed mouthwash.

With that being said and remembering all the money my parents lovingly poured into my mouth, I’ve always tried to be very good about keeping up with regular visits to the dentist, except for the few times I’ve been without insurance, which, thank the Lord, have only lasted for a year or so on two or three occasions. I’ve always been applauded for my impeccable oral hygiene on each visit. I don’t have a single cavity, and I’ve always managed to catch gingivitis before it got worse. Well, today, I visited the dentist for the first in three years. THREE YEARS. That length of time is so embarrassing to type out. I’m not even sure why I waited so long to get my butt to make a dental appointment. I certainly didn’t have lack of insurance to blame as I have been covered quite consistently since I’ve moved to Chicago with the help of my husband.

Anyway, on to the terrifying part: I finally schedule a dental appointment for today after getting situated on my new insurance plan. What I thought would be about an hour routine cleaning (you know, because I have impeccable oral hygiene) turned into a three hour appointment. After my dentist took a gander at my x-rays, she sat down, and explained that everything looks pretty good considering how long it had been since my last visit, but that my x-rays revealed very minimal bone loss. Naturally, like any normal human being, all I could hear was BONE LOSS as if she had yelled it at me. Without spewing out a ton of medical terminology, bone loss can occur from a variety of causes but the biggest cause is through the onset of periodontitis after gingivitis has been left untreated. Periodontitis is something that will always need to be managed. This would be my cause.  If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are slowly destroyed. Can you imagine the look on my face when I realized that this is pretty serious? I was shocked more than anything else though.

“Don’t worry Jen, it’s very minimal,” my dentist tells me. “However, luckily, with a deep cleaning [or scaling and root planing if you want to get fancy] we can prevent any future loss . We’ll see you back in 3 months to re-evaluate and make sure that you have been adhering to the oral hygiene plan we’ll discuss later…. ” My dentist was so sweet and kind. I loved how reassuring she was that this wasn’t the end of the world despite the look on my face. I’m sure I looked like I would puke at any minute.

She proceeded to show me my x-rays from the last time I had a visit, which, mind you, were three years ago, and she mentioned that these x-rays also revealed very, very minimal bone loss as well, which caught me off guard. My dentist at my appointment three years ago said nothing to me about bone loss. Nevertheless, she said the good news is that the loss didn’t get worse from three years ago. Thank the Lord! Seriously, that was music to my ears. But the thought in the back of my head was, “UM, I’M SORRY, BUT WHY DID’NT THE DENTIST LAST TIME TELL ME ABOUT THIS THREE YEARS AGO!?” The lawyer in me started thinking about potential malpractice claims that could have stemmed from a slip up like this if someone had really suffered severe bone loss from that first visit to this. But, that’s a side thought….for now.

In any event, of course I agreed to the scaling and root planing! But, I had no idea what to expect. In my stunned state I starting blurting out questions left and right. “I’m afraid to ask but is it painful?” “Some people opt to receive a Novacaine injection, but most people are fine without anything.” Being the total baller I am I decide to forgo any injections and go in cold having absolutely no idea what to expect. Guys, it wasn’t bad AT ALL.

I’m disappointed that I let my regular visits to the dentist fall by the wayside without even a second thought, and now I’m paying through absolutely required LIFELONG management (aka absolutely perfect oral hygiene ALWAYS) of what could have been caught even before it reached this point. I’m more stunned than anything else because although I hadn’t seen the dentist in three years, I wasn’t experiencing any sensitivity or bleeding gums. Moreover, when I visited the dentist three years ago and x-rays supposedly revealed slight bone loss, nothing was mentioned to me. Odd? A little. Periodontitis is often painless, however, until it gets really, really bad.

As an aside, I was also told there is very slight evidence that I grind and/or clench my teeth. Unbelievable…law school destroyed me as far as stress is concerned. Thankfully my job doesn’t send me into near cardiac arrest, so that’s good. Life on Earth is too short, ya’ll.

Yes, I’ve learned my lesson. GO TO THE DENTIST REGULARLY, friends. Superb oral hygiene is so important on a multitude of levels as it can correlate to a ton of other health problems. This reminds me, I have others doctors I need to see…



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