The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

September 29, 2012

MICHELE BENDER | Let’s see a big smile

Michele M. Bender
For The Tribune-Democrat

— I confess! I’m a “floss-aholic.” I buy flosser pics (little plastic pics with floss stretched on one end) and keep them in the drawer beside me. I floss after eating anything.

I have a 12-horsepower Black & Decker electric toothbrush. I use the powerful toothpaste and industrial-strength mouthwash that my hygienist recommends.

I’m clearly “dental-phobic.”

Many folks reserve dental visits for emergencies such as toothaches, bloody gums, broken teeth – desperate circumstances.

I love to go to my dentist’s office. I’d have my choppers cleaned every month if I could afford it.

I credit my stellar oral upkeep habits to my genes.

For the most part, my gene pool has been more of a septic tank.

But Uncle Joe, my dad’s brother, was absolutely the most wonderful dentist who ever fired up a drill. He was thorough, but gentle. I never minded time spent in his chair.

Readers, if you’re my age (somewhere between 50 and death), you may have fond memories of Dr. Joe on Lincoln Street. His little red brick office sat right where the circle behind the former Lee Hospital is now.

Aunt Sis, my dad’s sister, served as my other dental role model. Sis taught me, by example, two major life lessons.

(1) If at all possible, avoid diabetes.

(2) Try not to ever need dentures.

Years ago, a co-worker reluctantly underwent “deep scaling,” a periodontal procedure.

He reported the details the next day. “They numb you and scrape plaque from under your gums.”

Everyone shuddered except me. Wow! Cleaning under your gums, the epitome of oral hygiene.

It took me a year to save the $550 fee.

As I settled in the chair for my first session (they do one side at a time), the doctor picked up a chart. “Who referred you for this treatment?”

“No one,” I replied. “I just heard about it and thought, ‘that’s for me.’ ”

The doctor nearly collapsed. I thought he’d need sedation. His shock was evident.

“I never encountered a patient who voluntarily  requested deep scaling,” he gasped.

“I’m a trend-setter.”

I actually enjoyed my sessions. I pictured crud being scoured away, leaving the roots of my molars sparkling and sanitized.

The doctor explained that most folks only require that type of scaling one time. Routine cleaning and regular maintenance would be adequate.

Thanks, Uncle Joe. Thanks, Aunt Sis.

If you see me out somewhere, smile, but keep your Foster Grants handy because I’ll smile back.

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