Visiting the Dentist (After Avoiding One for Six Years)
Liz and I woke up early this morning, and made our way down to Frankfort for a dentist appointment. She goes to see Dr. Alan J. Heath, a family dentist that she’s been seeing… well, ever since she was little. She’s never been to another dentist besides him.
And now me, I’m seeing him too. And all in all, I was a bit less nervous than I thought I’d be. It’s been, jeez… almost 6 years since I’ve last seen a dentist. Driving down wasn’t too bad, and it wasn’t until the final moments of walking through the office door that apprehension hit me. On walking in, I was thinking to myself Ok, here we go. Here it comes.
The view from my chair. One of Dr. Heath’s assistants, Cheryl, was prepping me for my cleaning and when I asked her if it would be ok to take photos… she was super nice about the whole thing. Didn’t even bat an eyelash at the weird request (she just didn’t want to BE in the photo).
Throughout the whole cleaning process, it was… rough. Keep in mind that it’s been a while since I’ve been to see anyone. So you can imagine the state of my teeth.
I kept apologizing to Cheryl the whole time, as I knew it was pretty bad in there. Couple that with the fact that my gums bleed a lot… and the whole thing was pretty messy. In fact, there were several points where I imagined Cheryl was more like a battlefield surgeon than an oral hygenist.
Her response back was always “Well you’re here now, and that’s the most important thing.” It was something you might say to a younger kid, but honestly… I found it incredibly comforting, and it put me a bit more at ease.
Which I needed, I tell you what. Because of the long period between visits/cleanings, a lot of plaque had built up – both between the teeth, and underneath the gums (hence, all the bleeding). A good portion of the cleaning process was her cleaning underneath the gums, which was fairly uncomfortable for most of the time. And pretty much felt as rough as you would imagine something like that would be.
Me and Dr. Heath. Cheryl was nice enough to suggest a photo, and even offered to take it herself.
Here’s a surprising thing I learned from Dr. Heath and Cheryl: they gave me a new toothbrush, and stressed that a “soft” brush should always be used (harder brushes tend to wear down the enamel). They also suggested more of a small circular motion, rather than the straight-across brushing motion that I’m accustomed to.
By simply brushing left to right, the bristles apparently don’t have a chance to get between the teeth as much, or under the gums as much. Smaller circles help the bristles do this. Dr. Heath said that you almost have to consciously think about brushing, because the moment your mind wanders… you go back to the instinctive left-to-right approach.
Cheryl also gave me a bag filled with dental floss. I’m not a regular flosser, and Cheryl said she added a lot of extra ones in there so that if I didn’t end up flossing… I’d “feel really guilty.”
The final count? One cavity. But it’s a big one, apparently. I’ve got an appointment scheduled for next month, where they’ll go in and try to assess what’s going on. If they can fill it, that’ll be the end of it. But if not… it might mean a root canal.
I don’t even know what the procedure entails. That phrase is simply synonymous with pain in my mind, after a lifetime of movies and horror stories. So I guess we’ll see. Serves me right for waiting so long to see a doctor. Should be interesting to see what happens next month.
All in all, though I was long overdue… I had an incredibly favorable experience with Dr. Heath and Cheryl. They were both kind and patient with me, answered all my questions, and made sure I was calm and comfortable as much as possible.
As I’m someone who hasn’t been to the dentist in ages, and went through a rougher-than-normal teeth cleaning… my tendency might be to talk about the process, and how uncomfortable it was. I’m hoping that, even in the light of that process, the fact that I had such a favorable experience with Dr. Heath should speak volumes.
If you’re near Frankfort, IL and are in need of a dentist? Swing on by and visit Dr. Heath. Liz has been going to see him her whole life. And after today… I understand why.