I went to the dentist last week to get a couple fillings. (I’m 31 years old, how am I not past getting cavities??) I was gathering up my things at the end of the appointment, and the dentist was making small talk with me. This was awkward since I’d had Novocain on both sides and was basically drooling all over myself. I made some lame crack about how hopefully I wouldn’t have to do this again any time soon, and the dentist was all, “Yeahhh about that. Your gums are looking pretty red. And plaque-tartar-buildup-irritation, so you really need to be brushing-flossing-mouthwash-fluoride [insert Charlie Brown teacher voice]. So see you in August!” Ok maybe that’s not a direct quote.
I totally understand that it is my dentist’s job to look after my mouth, and I know that it would probably be negligent of him not to point out a problem. But I have to say, I was surprised. I had just seen him for a cleaning about three weeks prior, and I actually had been pretty darn diligent about taking care of my teeth. In the moment, I couldn’t even muster up the courage to challenge him. I nodded, wiped my chin with my sleeve, and got the hell out of there with steam coming out of my ears.
My negative experiences with doctors started years ago, but those instances were few and far between – or maybe they didn’t bother me as much – until more recently. It all started in the summer of 2012 when my husband and I decided that It Was Time to start trying for a baby. Big decision made, I scheduled four doctor’s appointments in one week to make sure everything was all good under the hood. I had looked forward to that time as a week of wellness, but in reality it was one giant depressing guilt trip. I was told the following: I might have gingivitis. I was wearing my contacts for too long. I needed to start doing breast self exams. I needed to exercise more. I should really get that mole looked at. I should stop using floss picks. I should stop ordering my contacts online. I needed to start taking a multivitamin. The only bright spot was when the dermatologist declared “that mole” non-cancerous.
I figure I’m about average from a health perspective. I’m not a meditating vegan marathon runner or anything, but I feel like I take decent care of myself. I walk when I can, eat green stuff when I can, avoid soda, brush my teeth twice a day, get my yearly pap smear… You get the picture. I also get my butt to the doctor when something is bothering me. As I have said before, 80% of success is showing up. So, go me. Clearly, though, I’m not perfect, and I fully accept the fact that to some extent, when it comes to visiting the doctor, I need to be a grown up, put on my big girl pants, and just take what is coming at me. Taking care of my health is important, and it is about more than just me. My daughter and husband are worth more than any lecture I am subjected to, and I want to be around for them for a long time. But at the same time… Really?!? C’mon, I cannot possibly be THE worst at dental hygiene. I can’t be the only person who has ever worn my contacts for three weeks instead of two. There’s no way that I’m the first to ever accidentally let my birth control prescription run out. Right??
I am a successful, hard working, and relatively healthy person who is doing her best to juggle a million balls at once. I understand that having irritated gums or neglecting to walk my 10,000 steps is a problem from a doctor’s perspective, but giving me a lecture is not going to make me want to do better, it just makes me want to stay away. I seriously want the dentist to hand me one of those cheap plastic kid prizes and give me a high five and a bear hug for making it in at all. I guess I need to remember that doctors are human too. I just wish they would acknowledge how hard it is for so many of us to get there, both logistically and emotionally, and to give us some credit for making the effort. As parents, it is more important than ever for us to take care of ourselves, and we really need support in doing that, not a guilt trip.
Maybe we can make a deal – you stop wagging your finger at me, and I’ll floss more, ok?? In the meantime, I’m going to dust off my big-girl pants.