Help for the hopeless (mouth)


For most of my life, my mouth has been a train wreck. When I go to a dentist for the first time, they say things like, “I see we have quite a history!” and “Look at all this!”  For years, I would brush and floss diligently, only to somehow end up with more cavities than I have teeth. Especially after I had Henry. Pregnancy hormones, man. Also: caramels.

Even before The Child, however, every cleaning was a gore-fest; every x-ray ended in the dentist tallying all the cavities to his assistant while I wept into my blood-soaked bib. Not surprisingly, these ordeals resulted in me not wanting to go to the dentist anymore. Did you know that if you don’t go to the dentist, your teeth will not magically remain okay? And then when you go back they can’t even believe how messed up your mouth is, or that you’re still alive or able to eat anything chewier than pudding?  

About three years ago I started the ol’ Paleo diet. I really liked it. I still like it. I would call myself, right now, Paleo-ish: mostly Paleo, with the occasional off-roading because life's too short not to eat cheese. The only thing I really, really avoid is wheat. I won’t claim real intolerance, but if I have wheat I feel bad. (It's easy to avoid something when you get bloated and depressed afterward.) Since the Paleo-ish eating, my checkups have become startlingly less terrible. The cleanings were still pretty dramatic, but I had zero cavities.  I think it’s safe to assume that wheat (or, more precisely, the wheaty treats—brownies/cookies/cakes/crackers) is problematic for me. 

The real change, however, started about eight months ago,with this new regimen.  It was created by Dr. Ellie Phillips, DDS, and it goes a little something like this: 

1. Rinse with CloSYS. (I had never heard of this before, but it’s available online; I've also found it at CVS.) 

2. Brush. 

3. Rinse with Listerine. 

4. Rinse with Act Fluoride Rinse. 

And that's it. 

(If you’re looking for reasoning and/or details, I strongly recommend looking at her site. There’s good information in there. Go on. There are details, like only using regular Crest paste and replacing your toothbrush frequently. Dr. Phillips is also an enthusiastic advocate of supplementing with xylitol, which is a thing I keep forgetting to do. I am not a perfect disciple.)  

You’ll notice there’s no flossing in there. I still sort of floss, but that’s because most of my mouth is made up of crowns and play-dough, and I feel weird if I don’t. If I’m in a rush, however, I do the rinsing and skip the flossing. 

ANYWAY I went for a checkup about a month into this new routine, climbed into the dentist chair, braced myself for an hour of gore and mayhem, and experienced…not much. A little bleeding, a sensitive area here and there, but I never even once prayed to God and all the saints in heaven. This was a strange and new world. 

Then the hygienist said something. Her mouth opened, and she said, “You’re doing a good job.” 

You’re. Doing. A. Good. Job. 

I have never heard anyone in a dentist’s office say this to me. Never. And I was. I was ever so good. I was flossing like a pro and brushing for two straight minutes twice a day with my soft-bristled brush. I followed the rules. And still the hygienist would lecture me after each torture session about the importance of flossing. She would make me hold a mirror in front of my face while she demonstrated proper flossing technique on me and I’d try to say, “I know! I floss like that!” But my mouth was full of her hands! 

Not only was I told that I was “doing a good job,” (I might have asked her to repeat it, a few times) there were (again!) no cavities. I was so excited leaving the dentist’s office that I almost ran home to write this blog post ordering everyone to do what I’m doing. But I thought I should wait. I had only been using the rinses for a month or so. Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe I was drunk. You just never know with me. 

Fast forward to today, the day of my next checkup.  I am here to tell you that this cleaning was … I don't even...there are no words. It was painless. I’ve had haircuts that felt worse. It felt like someone was just...brushing and flossing for me. How nice of them! While I have my hands free, for knitting! There was no bleeding, no sensitivity. I didn’t pray. I didn’t sweat. I didn't cry/laugh. The hygienist said everything was “perfect.”  I might have teared up. My dentist told me that I've halted my gum recession. Once again there were no cavities, and then he and the nurse held me in their arms and declared me their favorite patient ever. Then they made all the other patients come in to admire me. It took a while.  

I'm not being compensated for this post. I just can’t keep this to myself. Again, I think the reduction in sugar intake was a huge help. I don’t blame you if you don’t want to hear that part. (Did you just slam your laptop down and run to your bundt cake for comfort? I get it. Bundt cakes are delicious.) But the rinses were definitely instrumental in making my cleanings less...instrumental. Will they help you? I have no idea, but I don't see why not, and I don’t think it can hurt.