Who doesn’t hate the dentist?

Kristine Gill

I went to the dentist a few weeks ago. It had been a while because being busy in Kent made it hard to schedule a time to come home. Apparently those four extra weeks tacked on to the six-month gap from my previous appointment really pushed me over the edge as far as tartar buildup and the potential for tooth decay are concerned.

I brush my teeth every morning, before I go out, and if I’m feeling ambitious, before putting my retainers in and going to bed. I whiten my teeth too, but choose to refrain from strenuous behavior such as flossing. After this last visit, and despite what I thought was an adequate amount of toothy attention, it looks like I’m going to have to start breaking a sweat in the name of dental hygiene.

I had a different hygienist than usual on this visit. It was good because I was looking forward to discussing something other than our family’s yearly visit to Litchfield Beach, S.C., with someone who didn’t pride themselves on having, for years, retained this tiny bit of information for the two times a year when they could casually discuss it with me. The new lady asked if I was excited to start winter vacation and get a break from high school. After explaining that I actually graduated but couldn’t seem to stop wearing old high school hoodies and sweat pants, we had a few more minutes of awkward conversation.

If there is ever a time when I enjoy awkward conversation, it’s in the moments leading up to the scraping of enamel off my pearly whites. Yes, Miss Hygienist, let’s discuss my plans for pursuing higher education while you arrange large, pointed metal tools on a tray placed strategically inside my field of vision. Go ahead and feign interest in my plans for winter break while I nervously eye the weapons I’ve successfully avoided for the past six months.

If you think I’m overreacting, you should have seen the ceramic bowl I was forced to spit in every few minutes to clear my mouth of blood, all so Miss Hygienist could continue pulverizing my gums. She circled around the back of my head and attacked from that angle while I gripped the armrests and stared at the ceiling, determined to avoid the gaze of the woman causing me this pain. Her eyes may have been vacant, but I knew that under that mask she wore a smirk of contentment.

Once she’d removed all tartar/enamel, she commented on my wisdom teeth. Determined to avoid their removal through painful surgery, I have, for years, lied about the occasional discomfort they cause. So, when she mentions the precarious flap of skin still covering part of my wisdom teeth, I’m quick to say they create no pain whatsoever and that I actually look forward to their pushing up through my gums in my too-tiny mouth.

Miss Hygienist did say something worthwhile this visit though. She said that most people believe tooth decay and cavities develop most frequently for elementary school students, but that in reality, college-age students are at greater risk. She said flossing each day would greatly deter this risk. It was the first time I ever remember actually taking dental advice to heart. When she laid out a free container of floss next to my new green toothbrush, I looked at it with hope and determination instead of disgust and loathing.

I’ve started flossing. Not every day, but definitely more often than I used to. While striving to avoid the cavities seems a larger and more difficult-to-measure objective, I now labor in the hope that next time I meet Miss Hygienist, she won’t have to ask me to spit my own blood every other minute.

Kristine Gill is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].