What a Flossing Shame!

Shame. Guilt. Remorse. I know, feels like we’re talking religion, right? Wrong. We’re talking DENTIST. What is it about a trip to the dentist for a teeth cleaning that can make years of Mormon guilt pale in comparison? Even after miserably trying to make up for lost time the night before and morning of, you still know that when that plastic-coated chair of doom tilts backward, the light shines blindingly down from above forcing you to look away or shut your eyes (religious parallels duly noted), and the gloved and masked technician speaks to you in tongues, (literally, god knows none of us can really respond intelligibly with our tongues tied up in gauze, suction, or “bite wing” paraphernalia) you are busted. No arguments. No discussion. No way out. Busted.

It’s not like when you go to your family doctor for a yearly physical and know that anything going wrong or not looking so good within your body can be chalked up to age, heredity, or plain old bad luck. It’s not your fault. All’s forgiven. All’s fair. Sympathy abounds. Nooooo. Not at the dentist’s office. When you go to the dentist and something doesn’t look good, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. And if you aren’t good at placing blame on yourself, the smug technician clucking behind the surgical mask is only too happy to help. “Are you flossing regularly?” Are you flossing at all?” “How often are you brushing?” “Are you brushing for two minutes?” “Are you using a soft full-head or medium full-head?” “Have you tried a fluoride rinse?” And, my personal favorite, “Has it really been over a year since we’ve seen you?” I mean, come on! You’re the one having to use a jackhammer to clear the plaque away, enough with the patronizing!

And when all is said and done, and you actually DO NOT have any cavities, receding gums, or general tooth dysfunction, the dentist still never really congratulates you. There’s always an apology cloaked in a compliment. “Well, your teeth are actually in pretty good shape,” or “whatever you’re doing, keep it up” or even “hmmph (thoughtful frown), looks good (condescending bobbing nod), let’s get you in here sooner next time.” Like getting you in sooner might somehow help provide a better chance to actually get the drill out! Even when you’ve a reason to celebrate, you feel guilty about celebrating too much, because clearly there is still an opportunity for improvement. You’ve got no cavities. Your teeth are still white. Your gums are in good shape. And somehow, you still walk out of there feeling… well… shame, guilt and remorse. I’m so looking forward to my next visit. Maybe I’ll even floss the full week before…

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