A mouth full of gauze and an ice pack against my swollen jaw.

A mouth full of gauze and an ice pack against my swollen jaw.

Dental hygiene is important, y’all.

One of my biggest flaws is that, too often, I ignore problems with the secret hope that they’ll just go away. Whereas I tell some people that they “worry too much,” I don’t worry enough. Sometimes, this is beneficial. I don’t get myself in a tizzy over tiny things. It takes a lot to ruffle my feathers, and this has saved me in many instances. However, there are other times where my “not worrying” translated into problems becoming so huge that the results have been harmful to me.

Let’s talk about my teeth.

When I was a kid, I prided myself on No Cavities. All the way through college, it seemed that my teeth would always be perfect. After having worn braces from junior year of high school through freshman year of college, my teeth were a monument to Good Dental Care. Then, as my current dentist, Dr. Ghandi said, I “got lazy.” When I first joined the workforce in my early 20s, I was in that weird financial space of making too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to be able to afford insurance on my own. So I didn’t go to the dentist regularly. It was “too expensive.”

Thing is, I could’ve made it a priority and splurged $100/pop on regular cleanings and check-ups. But I didn’t. At the time, it seemed like “too much money.” What I didn’t think about was how much MORE a root canal would cost.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In my early 20s, I got my first cavities, one a large one in my lower, rear molar. I had it filled. Then the filling popped out, and I never did anything about it. Again, it was “too much money.” It was small at the time, and I figured that eventually I would have enough to deal with it later. That tooth eventually got so bad I got a toothache. That toothache led to a root canal in that tooth. One that I still have to completely pay off. I had a post put in, but couldn’t afford a cap – that would’ve been an additional $1,500 I didn’t have. And the post and filling was holding just fine.

Several years later, the post finally gave and came out. I was making even less money at the time, and still didn’t have insurance of any kind, so the dentist was even less of an option. I figured, I already can’t feel this tooth. As long as I keep it clean, it should be fine, right? Eventually, that tooth became a shell of its former self.

Meanwhile, one of the few times I did go to the dentist in the past few years, I was told that my wisdom teeth had come in, and that they had grown in pointed toward the back of my mouth, rather than straight down. However, the dentist I saw told me that if they didn’t hurt, I didn’t need to remove them. So, I left them alone.

I really wish that that dentist had thought about the fact that a tooth growing toward the back of your mouth would be really difficult to clean, because no matter how far back my toothbrush goes, there’s always going to be an area it can’t reach. Long story short, a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly felt enamel in my mouth as I was eating. As it turns out, the wisdom tooth on the left side of my mouth had worn away to the point of having bits chip off. Shortly thereafter, I started feeling twinges of pain on and off in that side of my mouth.

Thank God my Med-Cal paperwork and card came in when they did! Finally, at long last, I was able to see a dentist, and not a moment too soon!

Last week, Dr. Ghandi pulled that wisdom tooth….and because I’m a fucking weirdo, I kept it long enough to take a photo of it:

The undamaged side of my wisdom tooth. Nothing much to see here, right?

The undamaged side of my wisdom tooth. Nothing much to see here, right?

WRONG! Check out this cavity action. Yowza. That was in my mouth.

WRONG! Check out this cavity action. Yowza. That was in my mouth.

 Yeah. Uh-huh.

He also pulled that root canal tooth with the hole in it and filled FOUR cavities in the top of my mouth. Tomorrrow, I’m going in to have additional cavities filled in the bottom of my mouth. I’ve been taking antibiotics and ibuprofen for the past week, and now enjoy the pleasure of a mouth that doesn’t constantly hurt.

I was limited to soft foods the day my wisdom tooth was pulled, so it was all Trader Joe's polenta ALL DAY.

I was limited to soft foods the day my wisdom tooth was pulled, so it was all Trader Joe’s polenta ALL DAY.

 So, what’s the lesson in all this?

Dental hygiene is important. It should be a priority, and people tend to prioritize it below other health concerns when it really shouldn’t be, as it can lead to just as many medical problems if left unattended. So, regular check-ups should be prioritized. I really wish I would’ve just saved up 100 bucks every six months and planned to go to the dentist more regularly, rather than letting my tooth problems literally fester. If I had, I wouldn’t still be paying off a root canal bill, nor would I now be down two more teeth (I’d already had two teeth pulled when I got my braces because my mouth was crowded).

Also, I need a mouth guard. Because my tooth grinding in my sleep is out of fucking control. Ugh.