Do you ever hear that from anyone? It’s a phrase that can either be complimentary or meant as a pseudo-consolation.
You don’t have any student loans? Not many people your age can say that.
Your parents are still married? Not many people your age can say that.
You lived in the same house for 22 years? Not many people your age can say that.
You’ve never had any cavities? Not many people…
Most (I say, most) people tend to dislike going to the dentist whereas I’ve always loved the dentist. Did I like Novocain shots? Jesus, no, what do you think I am, a masochist? But I didn’t mind getting braces or having to have a palette-spreader or getting cleanings or getting X-rays or when they scrape at your enamel or any of that. I never had a cavity and I always walked out to greet mom with an A+ report.
That is until yesterday.
I was in a stellar mood driving to the dentist, I did the crossword in the waiting room; it was any other checkup.
First up were X-rays because I hadn’t had them done in a year. It seemed like it took the hygienist a while to get back to me and when she did, she punched me in the jeans.
Not really, but she delivered a similar blow: she saw two cavities on the X-ray. TWO. Not one, but two. One, two. Cavities. Plural.
I actually shouted “No!” and then realized probably everyone in the room heard me. Tears began to sting the corners of my eyes as she explained that they were very tiny and she’d have the dentist double-check. “She could be wrong.”
I said, no offense to your abilities, but I hope you are.
The rest of the exam went by in a blur while I focused on not letting the annoying tears spill over. Maybe I could blame it on my mouth being held open for tools to work around in there, yeah, that’s it.
Twenty five and a half years of no cavities and here I was, faced with TWO indescribably frustrating mars on my otherwise perfect record.
“You know, not many people your age can say they’ve never had a cavity, so that’s pretty darn good.”
One attempt at placating me and all of a sudden I’m faced with every time I’ve ever been told that.
“Yeah, my parents have been married for almost twenty five years.” “Wow, not many people can say that anymore.” Well, now I can’t either, can I?
“Yeah, I’ve lived in the same house all my life, for twenty two years.” “Wow, not many people can say that!” Well, now I can’t either, can I?
It may sound utterly ridiculous – being so upset over two (fucking ‘two’) cavities (that are literally about one twentieth of a millimeter from what it looked like on the x-ray) – but to me, it’s another devastating end to another constant in my life.
I used to be able to swear on my parents’ marriage and my home like the moon and the stars, and I could look forward to the dentist knowing that I’d walk out of there with another proud smile.
And now I can’t.
It used to be easy, and now it won’t be.
I’m already terrified of my next check-up. I don’t even know of anyone who still regularly goes to the dentist.
So the dentist comes in to check me over before letting me go, and says, very sternly, I might add, “If you’d ever had a cavity before, we’d be taking care of these TODAY.. But since you haven’t, let’s just see how you look in six months to a year.” And “otherwise, you look great.”
The hygienist applied some fluoride varnish before I left, which will hopefully arrest the decay (ugh, that word alone cuts me deeply), and then some helpful toothpaste and some mints that are essentially 100% xylitol – which will help remove acidity after I eat or drink.
I don’t know, I just feel like I’ve failed. It’s so fucking stupid, but it’s true. And it’s my own damn fault, probably, which is worse. I never floss. Never. I brush twice a day and, as you’ve learned, have always had a perfect report at check-ups. But there they are, two microscopic notches in between my lower right k9 and the first premolar.
Oh, the hygienist also said they weren’t actually full-blown cavities /yet/, but it doesn’t matter. The damage is done, in my opinion. And I’ll be goddamned if I go back and have to have a filling.
“At least the fillings would be tiny.” NO. There is no “at least” in this case. What an unexpected personal letdown.
You know what else? I don’t even want to tell my folks. How idiotic is that? It’s not like they’d be disappointed, that’d be even more idiotic. I just want to nip this in the bud and by my next check-up, they’ll say, good, they look better so we won’t have to do anything unless they get dramatically worse.
I’m going to use this stupid toothpaste and floss every goddamn day and just pray that my luck hasn’t officially run out.
I wish I could better describe why this hit me so hard or what it feels like. Anyone reading this is probably like, yeah, and I had to file for bankruptcy today, get over yourself and your less-than-perfect teeth.
You know, it’s just that my teeth have always been the easy thing to take care of. They’re good teeth and I’m happy with them and I’m proud of them. I am careful with them – I don’t open beer bottles with them or bite into anything rock-like that could chip one of them.
But tonight I have to hope that eating that sandwich didn’t wipe off all of the fluoride varnish and that tomorrow when I floss for the first time in years (not counting the dentist), it’ll be the beginning of a restoration.
I told the dentist that I was already depressed over the news, and he replied, “Oh, there are so many other things to expend emotion over; this is not one of those things.”
He’s probably right. Even if his last name is Weak.
In other news, I’ve been unemployed for over a year, but I was able to move into a new apartment that I absolutely love.
And well, *kicks imaginary stone on the pavement* not many people can say that at my age.