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Cutting to the Core

Dental hygiene a must resolution

This year I'm not going to make any resolutions vowing to quit smoking or lose weight. This will be the year I dedicate the rest of my life to taking care of my pearly whites, AKA my teeth.

I've never really thought much about them before. I was lucky as a child, being diagnosed with only one cavity in my life. I've brushed my teeth daily on a regular basis and I try to floss every day.

It's a little sad to say but until this past Friday I hadn't been to a dentist in 12 years, maybe longer. The truth is I can't remember what year I visited a dentist last, just that it was in the early to mid-90s.

That all changed on Christmas Day. I got a shock that day that I won't soon forget.

I was eating some hard candy just before bed time when I heard an abnormal crunch. I quickly spit out the candy I was chewing and thought I noticed a piece of my tooth. I then ran my tongue over the back side of my bottom teeth and I felt a hole there.

I kind of freaked a bit. This couldn't be happening. I'm already short, fat and bald, I thought. Do I really need to be handicapped further by adding, "missing some teeth, too" to my resume?

I've been a smoker for some time now, but I have quit and today will be one month since I've smoked. To help with my smoking I've also quit drinking so I won't be tempted to light up. I didn't quit for any health reasons or resolutions, I thought I might have to take on a car payment and I thought the $300 a month I spend on beer and cigs could go to a better place.

So when I looked at the back of my teeth in the mirror and noticed how stained and grotesque they were, I thought for sure I was going to lose some teeth. At least the one I could feel the hole in.

I thought the discoloration on the back of my teeth was from my smoking but when I talked to a co-worker who also smokes, he told me he never had black teeth.

"They're rotting," he said matter-of-factly.

I couldn't believe I had let my teeth be ruined. Sure, I have a history of ruining my vehicles by not doing routine maintenance but I thought as long as I brushed and flossed my teeth I would be OK.

My only comfort was the tooth with the hole in it didn't hurt. That was good because it took three days for me to get in to see a dentist.

Like I said, I was fully expecting to loose a few teeth and was a little disheartened to learn my insurance only covered 50 percent for bridges. Up until recently I didn't even know what a bridge was.

So it was like having Christmas all over again when the dentist who checked out my teeth told me how good they were and how lucky I was to have them. He told me he didn't usually recommend the 12-year program but in my case, he said, it worked.

What had happened was I had let the plaque and tartar build up so much it had actually formed an outer shell on the back of my front bottom teeth. What I thought was a chunk of tooth I had dislodged was actually a chunk of tartar. I wouldn't loose any teeth and better yet, after they were cleaned, they would be almost as good as new.

I'm now sporting very clean bottom teeth. I get my tops cleaned next week and then I'll be set. It's amazing how clean my bottoms are. They're like virgin teeth now. White and pure as the falling snow.

But I've learned something from this and I hope you readers will too. Take care of your teeth. Brush at least twice a day and floss just as many times if not more. I don't care if you're tired and want to go to bed, sick or just drunk, make sure you do it.

And visit a dentist. Don't wait 12 years like I did. If you can't visit one twice a year, do it once a year. If that's impossible, visit a dentist every 18 months. Just do it.

I know I will.

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