First, my apologies to all the dentists out there. The fact is, I’m scared to death of each and every one of you and have used a variety of dodge-and-avoid tactics to duck out of appointments throughout my life. (Including an incident around age 12 or 13 when I talked my mom into dropping me off for my biannual cleaning, only to split through the back door and catch a bus going in the opposite direction.)
I was one of the lucky ones; My teeth were naturally straight, with nary a cavity. While my brother was pinned down for countless painful drillings and fillings, I white-knuckled through my cleanings and x-rays and somehow managed to remain cavity-free. When I was nineteen, living on my own (with full dental insurance), a dentist declared that all four wisdom teeth should come out because they were poised to push my perfect teeth forward, ruining my smile. Horrified at the thought of four extractions under anesthetic, I declined and–over the last two decades–my teeth have been pushed, have overlapped somewhat across the bottom, and I’ve developed all manner of cavities. What the?!
At this point, my teeth have lost their once-lovely alignment, I have a stain in one that seems to be part of the tooth (needs to be drilled and replaced with a veneer), I need two implants for baby teeth that never fell out and grew back (can you imagine?!) and my teeth just aren’t as white as they once were, thanks to age, coffee and red wine. Sheesh! And let’s not forget those wisdom teeth. Every dentist who’s since taken an x-ray tells me they need to come out. Yeah, I got that, thanks.
We’re talking about thousands of dollars, numerous hours in the dental chair in great discomfort, anesthetic, and medicated downtime during recovery. Let me share an even guiltier secret: because of all this, I’ve been regrettably irresponsible about my children’s dental appointments. (There is no way somebody is going to strap my beautiful babies onto a chair and drill into their heart-melting smiles!)
My guilt has brought me to two recent happy discoveries! I just learned about Waterlase Dentistry, which uses laser energy and a gentle spray of water to perform a wide range of dental procedures– without the heat, vibration, pressure or the noise associated with the dental drill. In fact, Waterlase makes dental work so much faster that the dentist can do more, cutting down on having to return for additional appointments. (I’ll believe it when I try it, but at least I have a glimmer of hope!)
Secondly, Dear Doctor magazine is holding a life-changing contest for smile makeovers. Last year’s winner received a multi-procedure overhaul to his mouth and now sports a perfect, long-lasting smile. This year, Dear Doctor has increased the number of winners, so chances of being selected are even better!
These give me no excuse but to take responsibility for my dental health.
Dr. Mario Vilardi (president and publisher of Dear Doctor magazine) has appeared on Good Morning America Health, talking about thumb sucking and oral health and pregnancy and oral health.