Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tooth Decay? Never!

In addition to my rather neurotic fear of being blinded by the cats, I have a neurotic fear of tooth decay.  This fear, is probably slightly more realistic.  Or, it would be if I didn't respond to it with such verve.

I brush my teeth more intently than the vast majority of people.  I know this because when I went to the dentist for my six month cleaning back in July 2012, the dental hygienist remarked that statistics indicate the average person brushes their teeth for only 42 seconds.  I tend to brush anywhere from 5 minutes (if I'm in a hurry) to 8-10 (if I've got the time and I'm not overly tired), sometimes 3 or more times a day.

I also floss more than the average person.  I do not have any statistical data to back this up, but I'm reasonably confident in my assessment.  When I returned in January for my next six month cleaning, as the hygienist handed me a toothbrush and floss, I asked for extra floss.  She said it was the first time in her 13 year career that anyone had ever asked for more floss.  And she gave me a second trial roll.

Confusion swept through me in that moment.  "How can people not take free floss when it's offered," I wondered.  Especially when it goes so quickly....  I was grateful for that second trial-sized container as my desk roll (a full roll purchased about 4 months previously) was almost gone.  Those two trial-sized rolls from dentist lasted me less than 4 weeks.

It's okay.  I had a back up roll in my purse.  Another on my bedside table.  But these were nearing their end as well.  So, I headed to the pharmacy section of my local store and picked up four more rolls.  Now, I have a currently-in-use one and a full one in my purse, a full one in my overnight gag, a currently-in-use one in my desk at work, the currently-in-use one on my nightstand table, and a full one in storage in a drawer of my nightstand table.

I really love flossing my teeth.  I think I floss my teeth anywhere from 2 (if I'm feeling less neurotic and haven't eaten anything stringy) to 8 (or more) times a day.  I like to floss before I eat.  I also have to floss everyday after lunch at work, as apples are very fibrous and tend to get stuck between my teeth.

The same happens with just about anything else.  Barbeque pulled pork is delicious, but it requires immediate post-consumption flossing.  The same is true of oranges (the segment skin gets stuck) and just about any other fruit.  Or meat.  Or vegetable.  For the record, broccoli is a huge stuck-between-your-teeth offender.  And I eat a lot of broccoli.  And asparagus.  I eat a ton of brussel sprouts, too, when I can find them fresh and affordable, but they don't stick in my teeth so much.

If I've eaten popcorn, I'll floss my teeth as soon as I'm done.  And again half an hour later.  And again an hour after that, convinced that I have a hull stuck in my gums somewhere that I'm just not feeling, finding, and getting rid of.  I just know that it's stuck up there, under the gum line of one of my top back molars, and it's going to get infected, and my gums will swell, and then my teeth will rot and fall out.

It does not seem to matter that I have, to date, never lost a tooth.  It does not seem to help that although I have lost popcorn hulls in my gums and have spent so much time and effort digging at my gums with floss and finger nails and anything else I've made myself bleed just to get rid of it, I've never had my gums swell up to the point of infection, pus, and rotting teeth.

What does happen, though, is that I'll feel the slight gap between tooth 12 and tooth 13, and the floss slides so easily between them that I am convinced that I have gum erosion and any day now I'll feel my teeth begin to loosen, and wobble, and then they'll just fall out.

Rationally, I know that these two teeth are simply spaced more generously than any of my other teeth.  I have a small mouth and my teeth don't fit so handily (nor does my gigantic tongue, but that's another issue entirely) and every other pairing requires a good deal of effort to get the floss between them because they're just spaced that tightly, and that 12 and 13 don't touch is the reason the floss slides in so easily.  I know this.  But when I'm stressed out, I can't help myself.  I just worry about gum disease, and tooth decay, and the misery of losing my teeth prematurely.

My dentist and the hygienist both say that my teeth are in great shape, that it's obvious I floss regularly, that one cannot over-brush so long as one uses a soft bristled tooth brush, that one cannot floss too much or too often (though apparently one can floss to vigorously) and that if I'm not seeing blood during my dental routine, my teeth and gums are healthy.  "So, keep it up!" they declare.

Which I would do regardless, if only to keep the fear of tooth loss at bay.


  1. you're not alone in this fear...

    i actually have nightmares where i lose all my teeth. *shivers*

  2. PSS, I am sorry for your nightmares. I occasionally have pain from sinus pressure and that's when my tooth-loss fears really swing into high gear. No amount of logic or knowledge seems to counter the bases emotion of fear. 'Tis strange, to be sure. But it's also good to know I'm not alone!