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Remember the old Scared Straight program where men in incarceration told horror stories to troubled teens to try to scare them into taking a better path?   Well, I feel like I’ve been there, but instead of hardened convicted criminals, my mentor was of all people, the dentist.

My day started with a dentist appointment for my bi-annual cleaning.  Not a big deal, just a check up.  The hygienist was kind and actually complemented my hair color on the way to the chair.  I only see this woman twice a year and she noticed my hair was different; my husband could take a lesson from her in the powers of observation.

So there I am feeling all confident about my hair as she explains that before my cleaning there will be x-rays, gum mapping, and a cancer screening.  The x-rays go off without a hitch and then she proceeds with the gum mapping which consists of stabbing my gums with a sharp instrument and noting whether I bleed or not.  Fun!

This friendly dental hygienist smiles the whole time she explains to me in a very chatty, we are just the best of friends, kind of way that my flossing seems to have been under par and that “at my age” I’m going to have to step it up a bit.  She also notes that I probably should have gone ahead and had that filling the doctor ordered last year even though we had already maxed out my insurance because now it’s a crater that could require a root canal at any minute.  She continues to smile (I would too if I got free dental care) as she explains that by not getting that filling last year, bacteria was just running amuck in my mouth reeking havoc everywhere.

As if choreographed in advance, the dentist walks in at this moment and asks to see my x-rays.  The scene plays out underscored by Bad Company from the overhead speakers which the sweet little dental assistant notes, “has been playing ‘the oldies’ all day.”

Turns out I need about $4000.00 worth of dental work which the dentist assures me is not my fault.  He pats me on the shoulder and in a very soothing voice tells me, “it’s just what happens as we get older.”

The bright-eyed hygienist polishes up my dull aging teeth, then gives me a serious look over her mask as she explains how important it is to take care of these dental problems as soon as possible to avoid more damage.  She shows me literature about a loan program for mortgaging my mouth and sends me on my way with a new toothbrush and a mini-pack of floss.  I pass the dentist on my way out and he gives me the little pointing-a-gun gesture as he winks.  “See you soon,” he says.  And I realize, it doesn’t matter how good my hair looks when apparently my teeth are rotting out of my head.  Excuse me, I need to go floss.

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