We have to take care of our teeth. Our enamel grill is both an essential part of digestion and also a vital component to how we present to others socially, romantically and professionally. It’s like our shoes: On both conscious and subconscious levels, people notice.
I still remember the basic lessons I learned as a kid from my parents, my childhood dentist, Dr. Roger Alexander, and from Health class at St. Luke School: brush your teeth after every meal, don’t forget to floss and give your mouth a good rinse. From those lessons, I developed pretty good brushing habits early, brushing my teeth several times daily and flossing every night since I became socially aware in high school.
That’s not to say I’ve never had a cavity or that I have a perfect smile. Neither is true. When I was in junior high, I wore braces for a couple of years to straighten pretty crooked teeth. Had I been more diligent about wearing my retainer after the braces came off, I could have avoided the front-tooth gap I’ve had since I was 15. Decades on, I’ve accepted and embraced the imperfection as part of my character, declining dentists offers to “fix” it.
As a lifetime fan of coffee and a smoker for many years, I’ve also added an extra layer of dental care with home whitening kits from time to time, which, in combination with my rigorous brushing program, have kept any serious staining or yellowing at bay. At middle age, I think my teeth and my quirky smile look pretty good.
My oral care ritual is pretty analog. My toothpaste of choice is Tom’s of Maine Flouride-Free Anti-Plaque & Whitening paste (in peppermint, of course), and my brush is the glorious RADIUS original. I floss with generic waxed floss, sometimes minted, and I rinse with CVS’s “Blue Mint” Antiseptic Rinse. The feeling is ultra fresh and clean.
And once every couple of years, I’ll indulge in Crest 3D White Strips. They do affect my tooth sensitivity and sometimes “blanch” my gums if I place them beyond the tooth, but these reactions are temporary. They’re not as fast and efficient as professional whitening from a dentist, but they’re far more affordable and they do work.
Most recently, I needed to get some bonding on some of my teeth along the gum line. Our gum lines recede naturally as we age, but for people who had braces and whose teeth were moved more rapidly, gum recession can be more aggressive. In my case, the result was a dark, stained line between my teeth and gums, which made me not want to smile too much. Gross. My new dentist here in Downtown Cleveland fixed the whole issue, as well as giving me a new crown to fix an old filling, over four appointments over the last two months. I now feel more confident than I’ve felt in years about my teeth and my smile. It made a huge difference.
But for the long term, it all dials back to what my parents, my dentist and my Health class teachers taught me. Brush, floss and rinse. It’s good grooming, and they’re the only teeth we’ve got.