After twenty years of what I thought was simply fantastic luck with my dental health (something that, like my Formerly massively thick hair and dewey, elastic skin, I took for granted as my happy genetic birthright forever more) my mouth has been discovered by my new dentist to be a gaping, decay-ridden blight upon my face.
If you’re easily skeeved, you might want to cover your eyes and read what follows by peeking out from between your fingers.
Year after year I went to my olde-timey DDS, who wore a crisp little white jacket like out of a dental hygiene instructional video from the ’50s and regularly spoke with authority about exciting advances in dental research. Year after year, he told me I was one of the fortunate few who seemed miraculously resistant to plaque buildup. I had nary a filling on his watch. I took this to mean that he was a great dentist, and I a superlative flosser. Not exactly a marketable skill, but one in which I could take a small amount of pride.Â Then he retired and I went to my fancy new guy, Dr. Rabinowitz on Madison Avenue.
Both Dr. R and the hygienist—who spent a full hour sandblasting my teeth—could barely contain their horror. Four cavities—one in a tooth with three visible cracks–and measurable gum recession. TMI. I’m sorry. But just think how I felt when he stuck a camera on the end of a tube into my mouth, snapped a series of un-glam shots of my molars, and then broadcast them up on a TV mounted in the corner above the chair. My most problematic tooth, the cracked one, had what looked like a gigantic black lagoon set in the middle of a polluted beach. “Here, here and here,” said Dr. Rabinowitz, pointing at icky spots around my filling, “Decay. This, this and this,” he continued, gesturing toward the cracks, “are trouble.” He then estimated the distance my gums had rolled back to be appreciable.
Gum recession? Fabulous me? OK, still fabulous, albeit somewhat less youthful me? Receding gums don’t fit in with even my new, healthfully adjusted self-perception, one of the not-young woman.Â They belong in the “old person” file along with conditions like arthritis and osteoperosis that Sally Field earnestly wants to save you from.Â Â In short, WTF?
That expression, long in the tooth, which of course means OLD, refers to how elongated your teeth start to look when the pink tissue scooches back and you start to lose bone mass in your jaw (next stop: Denture City.) “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” another crusty old chestnut, means if you get a free horse, don’t check its teeth to see how old it is–just say thanks and hope it makes it home without dropping dead of old age on the way there. At the very least, you can sell it to the glue factory should it become lame anytime soon.
Did I mention I can no longer wear heels? Is that the human female equivalent to being hobbled and a future glue-stick?
No. No, it’s not. Because I say so. Here’s why: Heels hurt. I’m smart enough now (finally, after many Â hundreds of dollars spent on torturous shoes and thousands more on cabs home because I couldn’t walk) to buy cute, low-heeled shoes and to find a way to feel comfy-sexy in them, as opposed to strictly ornamentally sexy in heels.
I’m choosing to view my misadventures in oral health in much the same way. I’m Formerly Deluded (into thinking I can do very little and have a happy, healthy mouth) and Formerly Complacent about my dental health (mistakingly so, as I now realize). Now I’m Finally Wise, and have found a good dentist who will shore up the old choppers and make sure I am ok going forward.
Other pit stops on the bright side: I can finally afford a good dentist (kind of, although I’d rather spend my money on something more fun. Still, I had to go cut rate when I was scrambling for a living, even as I looked hot doing it). What’s more, I am finally patient enough to take care of my teeth (I’m embarrassed to admit how many nights I fell into bed when I was younger, not even bothering to brush the margarita residue off because I was so nonchalant). Plus, I have pictures of my nasty-ass teeth to show my daughters so they maybe won’t be as la-de-da certain of their dental immortality as I was.
Did you catch that whole FORMERLY/FINALLY dialectic? That’s going to be big here on Formerly Hot, because the deeper into being a Formerly I become, the more I realize that for every Formerly, there’s a Finally, and that Finally gain usually (no, not always) more than makes up for whatever was lost over the years.
So what’s your Finally?