Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saving your teeth and many dollars on dental bills....

Yesterday morning I had a dentist appointment and I'm happy to report no cavities. At least that is what the dental hygienist thought as my dentist Dr. Fredricka was out sick.

I'm thinking of sending Freddie as we call her, a get well card as I love, love, love my dentist. She was not easy to find and I interviewed quite a few frogs before I found her. My main criteria was clear: Must work well with dental wimps!

There are now many web sites out there like Dentalphobia.com that have a variety of explanations for dental neurotics like myself. For me, a few bad experiences with zingers and what those in the industry like to refer to as "a little discomfort" did me in. And I'm not a wimp in every area; I almost feel bad taking cookies from those sweet American Red Cross volunteers after donating blood, because sticking needles in my arm and watching my blood drain out really is not a problem. But start sticking metal pointy things around my teeth and I get shortness of breath.

I made the mistake of asking for the "first available" dental surgeon when I needed my wisdom teeth out. Note to self: First available, especially if available about any hour on any day starting today is NOT a good sign.

My dental surgeon, the one whose availability was so high, an older curmudgeon, lacking humor, quickly grew impatient with my whimpering and whining. He said he admired people who weren't afraid of simple pain. Honest to goodness, this is what that masked man was saying coming at me with an entire tray of miniature metal knives and a power drill.

But Freddie is different. When I told her I had a sensitive area near my right lower side molars, she said, "No problem!" Now the dental hygienist puts numbing gel there every time I get a cleaning. They hand me headphones before I even ask for them, tuned into some sort of Yanni songs. And it is in comparison to the scraping of metal on teeth, not unlike fingernails on a chalkboard, that one really appreciates the genius of his work. Just kidding there, I actually find his music quite mellowing, just right for relaxing under the lights.

When Freddie had to drill, she not only pre-numbed and then gave me the numbing shots, but also gave me nitrous oxide. I remember she was chatting with her assistant while waiting for the gas to take effect and I realized for the first time how hysterically funny she really is. Dry wit indeed. I was laughing so hard I started to snort and when she then casually went over and started turning a knob, presumably to lower the rate of gas flow, I found this so comical tears were streaming out my eyes. All in all, not a bad cavity filling experience, though I was nauseous the entire drive home.

So saving money idea number one, don't put off cleanings because you're scared. Just search around till you find a dentist that sees wimps as real people;-). And if you're one of those people like my friend Emelia who says she actually likes to hear the sound of the scraping because it feels good to know how clean her teeth are getting.....well, next time you see her on Pluto, where I'm sure she must spend a fair amount of her free time, be sure to say hello.

My first dental report card didn't go so well. To check the health of your gums, they stab you with a spiky stainless steel rod that looks a lot like the tool my grandpa kept near the walnuts and walnut crackers to tease out that last bit of nut meat. Then they find out how far it goes into your tender pink flesh. One to three is pretty good, anything over three is written in red ink on your tooth report card. I got some red marks and the dentist started talking gum disease. My thoughts raced to a good friend who has had to go through gum tissue grafting. You do NOT want to go through this.

She recommended I switch from my $2.99 Reach toothbrush to an electric one or sonic care as she felt I was scrubbing too hard against the gums and this contributes to gum tissue issues. She also recommended a water pik.

These two things, especially the water pik, have done wonders for my teeth. And the gross stuff that is still between my teeth even after brushing that then shoots out with the water pick is nothing short of astounding (so sorry if you're eating as you read this....).

Now my dental report card impresses even my wonderful dental hygienist Mary, who is giving me all ones and twos these days when she pokes around my gums.

So money saver number two, get an electric or sonic toothbrush and some sort of water pik. I got mine at Target a few years back for maybe $40.00 and it works great. Considering the cost of one trip to the dentist, that's money well spent. An aside, do you ever almost forget to pay as you're on your way out? Somehow my psyche feels like I was the one who endured the most and why I should be handing over a hundred dollars and not them, can be confusing in the moment.

So signing off tonight with my not so pearly whites (the home bleaching stuff made my teeth tingle for weeks) but very healthy chompers. Goodnight and happy brushing (electric that is).


P.S. The lawyer in me hastens to request you not consider my blog as dental advice, but rather seek the advice of a qualified dentist near you....;-)


  1. I am a new reader and like your posts. You have a wonderful sense of humor!

    If you would like to read my blog (because I have fewer readers than you do!) it is:

    Jill B.

  2. This is why parents need to find great dentists for their kids. My mom found the best dentist for us when my siblings and I were young and we all have no problems going to the dentist. I am fortunate that I have great teeth and generally a quick cleaning is all I get, but it has never bothered me to have any work done.

    I have fired a dentist before. He was a great dentist, but had a crappy staff, so we quit going there.

    The one we have now is good, I guess. I only get to see him for about 5 minutes every 6 months. LOL!

  3. Jill, I enjoyed your blog. I so agree that garage sales are a great place for kids toys for Christmas. Even if it weren't so frugal, the benefit to the environment would make it a worthwhile idea. My kids always get a few new things from relatives and I shudder at the sheer amount of cardboard, plastic, and little rubber band things that even a small item comes with. Good wishes. Thanks for stopping by! Eileen