One of the items on my rather modest Bucket List is to die with all my original teeth in my head. Or at least permanent implants.
The first time I saw my grandmother in the hospital, where they remove your false teeth upon arrival, I determined right then and there, that as God as my witness, I would never be sitting in a medical facility with my lips curled in like I was gumming a banana.
There are few things more frightening to a young child than seeing a beloved grandparent instantaneously turned into the Crypt-Keeper. It is not right, I tell you, and someone should do something about it.
Now, considering I do not ever, ever, ever want to have false teeth, or alternatively, be toothless, one would think that I would have better oral hygiene standards than I do, but then again, one would be wrong.
Primarily, I am L-A-Z-Y. In general, I have the hygiene standards of a French woman. Seriously, Americans have this obsession with thinking they stink. You can go a looong time without soap and water before anyone can actually smell you. Trust me on this.
My brushing technique lasts about 45 seconds and I do not floss. Oh, every time I go to the dentist, I walk out swinging my hips with a sassy new goal to floss like an Olympic Champion and that usually lasts anywhere from three days to two weeks.
This is psychologically similar to the new diet I start every Monday and the pledge to be a better person for the next twelve months on New Year’s Eve. The healthy eating generally lasts until Wednesday and I am in a Gandhi-like state until about March.
So, five years ago when I had a gum infection due to severe bone loss and had the tooth in that infected area removed – thank God, the last one on the left side so it is not noticeable to anyone but my tongue, who continues to worry over the empty space left behind by his friend – the fear of the mortal damned was instilled in me, (though my personal dental care routine only marginally improved) and all of a sudden, I started worrying about the depth of my “pockets.” (Ask your hygienist).
I actually cried like a baby over the loss of that molar. As I told my husband, it was the first sign of my impending decay. I could envision the grave, where my skull would lay a hundred years from now, missing one tell-tale tooth.
Despite my periodic efforts at achieving good oral health with a habitually-elusive daily flossing habit, a year later, my pockets were deeper. And not in a good way. In the world of periodontal disease, “deep pockets” does not mean you are rich. In fact, quite the opposite. It means you will soon be very, very poor.
So I saw a specialist on the recommendation of my regular dentist and the suggested course of treatment was a below-the-gumline-cleaning to the tune of five thousand dollars. Yes, five THOUSAND dollars.
My Bucket List immediately transformed in my mind’s eye, like the air calculations of the protagonist in “A Beautiful Mind.” All of a sudden it was crystal clear that I could either have a deep tissue gumline cleaning in the hopes that I would not lose any more teeth over the next thirty to forty years… or I could go to Paris.
I really don’t want to spend my last days in the hospital with my face caved in like a Muppet, but you know, you only live once and Paris is pretty awesome. I decided to take my chances on better personal dental hygiene and if I should wind up at the end of my life with a face shriveled like a prune unable to eat anything but Jell-O, I will tell myself, “I will always have Paris.”