“Future suffering is to be avoided.” — Patañjali, ancient health expert
My mother, who just turned 90, has all her teeth.
“There’s one that’s loose back there,” she says, “but so what. It doesn’t bother me.”
This is a woman who eats her cereal standing up. She’s always been very practical about everything, including her teeth. Her father was a dentist (picture 100% coverage, no premiums, no co-pays, no deductibles) and she continues to see a dentist regularly.
“Every six months?” I ask.
It seems I’ve inherited her healthy teeth. After 57 years, I have one filling. Every dentist I’ve seen has praised my mouth.
At some point, overconfidence set in. Transitioning from full-time employment to contract work, I didn’t maintain dental coverage. Why would I? Just to be told how perfect my teeth are and sent away with a toothbrush?
And then, one sunny afternoon, I bite into an apple. It feels like a corkscrew twisting in my upper palate. Turns out I have a gum infection. Not a big surprise considering I haven’t had a check-up in eight years.
The dentist detects substantial bone loss, probably caused by bacteria from the infection, which could have been going on for years for all I know.
“Your teeth are long,” he says.
Turns out I’m not the first patient he’s told this. Teeth look long due to gum recession caused by gum disease, brushing too hard (why didn’t they tell us this in Health Class?), aging (can’t do much about that one), teeth clenching, and misaligned teeth. When gums recede, the long sensitive roots can be exposed. Great!
Moral of the story: Keep seeing your dentist regularly. Most policies cover routine exams and cleanings twice a year. As my mother would say, “Three times can’t hurt, either.”