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I’m sure I’ve said this before: I hate getting dental work done. The shrill noise of that drill and those suction gags ……. shudders! Well, haven’t seen anyone really thrilled about it, so I know I’m not alone*.

Growing up I enjoyed a great set of teeth. While my siblings had dental issues during their teens, I never had any complaints. This changed when I left home for college. During my final year I had some pain in one of my lower molars. I went to see a dentist but, unfortunately, the experience was not too great. Maybe the anesthesia didn’t work, or whatever, I still remember that sharp pain (pseudo self-inflicted!) … and I concluded that this was normal for all dental proceedings.

Anyway, the problem still persisted but I did nothing. My fear (phobia, I must say) of the ‘drilling and filling’ didn’t help either. But, eventually, I had to get it fixed as I was leaving the country pretty soon to study abroad (and we all know how expensive dental work is where I was going … you guessed it, the US of A!).

So I went to see this pretty reputed dentist right around the block. A nervous wreck that I was, I guess my nervousness was contagious, that I made this poor guy nervous too. I guess I didn’t let him fix it properly as the filling fell out in a couple of months! Away from home, out of the country, on a student visa, I didn’t have dental insurance (couldn’t afford one, obviously). So I didn’t see a dentist. I confess, I was actually happy about the fact that I could delay seeing one … short term happiness with long term repercussions :-|.

And then suddenly (after a year), the pain came back. This time with full brunt. I know, the trouble had been brooding down in the depths of the … you get it, it wasn’t sudden.

Luckily I was travelling back to my home country in a few weeks, where I then got it fixed. Only I know how. Had to get an RCT done with one big filling right next to it. Ever heard of ‘A stitch in time saves nine’?

So, of course after all this fiasco, I pledged to take extra care of my teeth. But as they say: out of sight, out of mind, the ‘pledge’ eventually wore off. Don’t get me wrong, I took care of my teeth as best as I knew. Brushed twice daily. Used mouthwash (well, occasionally). But as it turns out this wasn’t enough (there was nothing extra about this care that I had promised myself).

Anyway, since now I work and my insurance covers preventive dental work (incl cleanings) I went to see a dentist. How bad could just a cleaning be, right? And it wasn’t. It was the diagnosis that followed that gave me chills. 12 cavities, two RCTs, deep cleaning, and wisdom teeth extraction. WHAT! My heart sank (and so did my wallet). That’s almost half of my mouth. What have I been eating? What have I been brushing with? No, please NO!

I know I hadn’t seen a dentist in two years but, still! Unbelievable! I had only myself to blame. You haven’t been flossing, said the dentist with a stern look on his face. I was embarrassed. Oh well, yes, I haven’t been. My bad.

I had to discuss this with my sister (a dentist) back in India and show her my X-rays. She was shocked at the diagnosis herself, so I was a bit relieved. She didn’t see any cavities but one (that may need an RCT) and she suggested that I get a second opinion.

I got a second opinion the next day but it didn’t help either. Neither did the third. Their diagnosis was the same! Are you sure, I remember asking them. And then asking my sister the same. They were all sure. So, I went from no cavities, to twelve, to one, to twelve, and back to one in a matter of just two days. Heights of confusion.

Deep in my mouth, err … heart, I wanted to believe my sister. Don’t let them touch any other teeth but only that one, she would say! But she had seen only the X-rays and not my mouth. Maybe there was something in my mouth that wasn’t visible on the X-rays? (see how the confused brain works!).

I happened to mention all this to a friend of mine who referred me to her dentist. She also told me about the fact that many dentists over-diagnose and suggest unnecessary treatments. Really? Maybe they are overcautious or just plain greedy, I don’t know but this I was completely unaware of! Too naive of me, but I kinda assume that things (incl people) should work at least a little better in the first world than in the world that I had left behind. I will never ever again.

Anyway, this prompted to me go online and check the ratings of these three dentists that saw me. Lo and behold, though there were mixed ratings, they were being mostly rated as the ones who believe in drill baby drill. Whoa! Okay, what next?

Finally, I went to see this ‘good’ dentist with my friend’s referral (of course I checked the ratings – which were excellent – before I went!). His diagnosis is the same as my sister’s (YAY!) and I’m seeing him again later this week for my treatment. I mentioned to him how these other dentists were ready to drill half of my mouth, to which he shrugged and basically reiterated what my friend had told me. Your teeth are just fine, he added.

Phew …….

Well, the good thing is that this whole event got me scared. Maybe it’s good to get scared sometimes. Lesson learnt: I shouldn’t take my excellent denture (or anything for that matter) for granted. While I’m glad I didn’t get half my mouth drilled, I’m twice as glad that now I sincerely brush twice daily (and sometimes after lunch too), floss daily and use mouthwash regularly. I just hope this sincerity doesn’t wear off and that the ‘do it, or else …’ tactic keeps me at it!

Keep smiling (while you can show off your pretty teeth)!
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* Sorry, sis 😛

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