Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

a dental history

From the time I was a little girl, teeth have been an issue for me. Not because I had crooked ones-- well actually the bottom row are kind of crooked as you can maybe tell from the picture I took to illustrate this piece. The problem was growing up where the water was soft, before Crest came along with the wonder of fluoride toothpaste, and add to that drinking soda pop as a tot.

My first visits to the dentist were in grade school with the need for a number of sizeable fillings. Then in high school, the next dentist said the first dentist had done a lousy job and pretty near every filling had to be replaced-- not to mention more to be done. This was not good news at best given how painful dental work used to be, but he told my parents it'd be cheaper to pull them all and go to false teeth (his estimate for the work was around $400 in the days you could rent a house for $50 a month). My parents, who didn't have a lot of money at any time, opted for the fillings to my eternal gratitude. I still can't believe a dentist would have said what he did. Back then, I think, false teeth were considered more acceptable options. As the dentist filled those teeth-- before water cooled and improved drills, tears would come to my eyes from the pain; and he'd say don't be a baby.

Through the years I had an assortment of dentists and more drilling, some tooth pulling, and gradually saw dentistry improving techniques. When we moved out to our farm, about 30 years ago, we checked out a new dentist, who I stayed faithful to-- in my way-- as in I never went in as often as recommended; but I more or less kept the dental work up to date.

Our dentist worked out of my favorite type of clinic-- small town and owner built. He was quite a character, as painless as was possible, introduced me to the wonders of nitrous gas, and kept a constant banter going about the failures of modern medicine, his gold mine, and a process of alchemy to change platinum to gold-- except the assayist said it wasn't really gold. He knew it was a plot. He was totally a kick, but his greatest virtue for me was he was a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants type of dentist who could seem to do miracles with drill and filling as he creatively rebuilt teeth. None of his fillings have fallen out to date. I'd still be going to him except he had a stroke and turned over his practice to a young dentist.

Dentistry has changed tremendously; but with deeply engrained memories, many people my age still avoid it more than is healthy for gums or teeth. I finally made myself go in again last month... It wasn't exactly being proactive given I thought I had broken a piece from a tooth-- wouldn't be the first time considering the number of huge fillings in my mouth. It wasn't a tooth this time but broken off tartar. I admit it'd been a year and a half since the last cleaning...

At the moment, my teeth have been cleaned and all necessary fillings completed. I am likewise filled with the self-righteousness of someone who is currently out of sin-- would be nice if I could keep it that way. Maybe I'll even floss this time...


robin andrea said...

I have spent more time in dentists' chairs than I care to remember. I too had lousy dental work as a child, and have spent a considerable amount of time and money to repair that shoddy work. I am a dental-care junkie now. I travel with my electric toothbrush. I brush, floss, and pick daily! I even have my teeth cleaned three times a year. I'm a fanatic. When dpr and I were down in California two weeks ago, we went out to dinner once with his mom. While we were at the restaurant we ran into our former dentist and her entire staff having dinner. We hugged our hygienist like she was an old friend!

Endment said...

Oh - you hit a sore spot!!! ouch and ouch again --- I have a wonderful dentist - I have been going to her for 10 years and she is super - I need to go in to have a crown placed and even dread that --- Can't use any of the anesthetics so no mater what people say dentistry for me is not painless. What an interesting post!!!

Dick said...

You & I are about the same age & I do indeed remember those earlier day dentists. The process is much improved now but still is not a favorite activity of mine. However, with dental insurance, you are kind of forced into regular cleanings which I guess isn't bad.

By the way, AARP now has a pretty good dental insurance plan available to their members, at least it is available in Washington State. You might check with them to see if it isn't also offered in Oregon. It is a Delta Dental plan which is one of the biggest group insurers & who my plan while I was still working was with.

goldenlucyd said...

Oh Rain, this is a grand post! You really captured the good old-time dentist as well as reminding us of the charaltans out there. My dentist wants to do implants but at my age I think it's a waste of money. It may be false teeth for me yet---if not, thankfully for you!

Mary Lou said...

Oh YEAH!! I remember those painful visits. THis last time I went I needed a root Canal (SHUDDER) and I did not even feel the novacaine shot, and I was awestruck!! slight pain the next day, but It was actually a pleasant experience.

I remember when flouride went into the water in San Diego, That really helped with cavities in children. We are so much luckier now than when we were younger!!

Parapluie said...

Berkeley also had flouride. But now that we don't have dental insurance, the likelyhood of having dental repair looms. I will check into Delta Dental.
Rain, I have never noticed your teeth. That is good I think.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

I had my teeth cleaned on Monday--every three months because my gums are beginning to recede. Mostly I'm OK with dentistry but have had two root canals go bad in the olden days. Ouch! My family was poor and I never saw a dentist until I was 19 and able to pay for it myself. Your small town dentist sounds great; my current one is in Palos Verdes, a former parent at my school, and every time I go there, I meet somebody I know. His wife is one of the hygenests. The bad part of leaving company benefits is not having dental insurance anymore; none of that on Medicare or Blue Cross Supplement and I won't sign over to an HMO where there is dental coverage.

Rain said...

I will look into that dental insurance plan too, but we did look at various possibilities after my husband retired from corporate life. They all were too high for what they returned. We'll check that one out though. What we thought was if we put aside the same amount of money as those payments, we could cover a crown a year easily and the coverage we had found was only going to cover half the cost of a crown anyway. I miss the security of coverage.

I can't blame the not cleaning on dental insurance though. I wasn't good at doing it when we had it. Until this piece of tartar broke off, I really didn't think my teeth did much of that :)

With fluroide, neither of my kids, who are now in their late 30s, have ever had a cavity.

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