I can remember from a very young age being told to brush the “sugar bugs” out of my mouth every night before bed or my teeth will hurt. We all know that we should be brushing our teeth twice a day every day. Even if you didn’t hear it from your parents, odds are you heard it at school or on T.V. You know what else I remember from a really young age? Picture day. Yep, I said picture day.
We all have those awkward elementary school, middle school, high school and, if you’re me, general life photos that you look at and just cringe. We do this because we learn at a young age that the way we look is important. For me my hair was always more important than taking care of my teeth, and for that I blame picture day.
When I was 5 years old I had an obsession with hair. To be more specific, I had an obsession with Ariel’s hair from the Little Mermaid. I mean, what little girl in the early 90’s didn’t, right? Once my dad caught me putting tons of hand soap in my hair because I was trying to get it to stick up in imitation of that perfect “Ariel swoop”. But anyway, that’s beside the point. I’m telling you I was obsessed.
There was a girl in my kindergarten class whose hair I was completely envious of because it always looked like Ariel’s iconic hairstyle. One day that little girl came to school and her hair was different. Her bangs were parted perfectly down the center and formed a beautiful, fluffy imitation of the McDonald’s arches.
It rocked my little hair world. Suddenly I no longer wanted Ariel’s swoop, but a perfect part down the center of my bangs. I guess you could say I was a total fashion sheep, but whatever, I was 5. Needless to say I fell in love with the new hair trend and was desperate for my hair to be perfectly parted for my first picture day.
The night before picture day I stayed up well past my bedtime trying to get my hair to stay parted in the center. After a while I became so frustrated with my hair not cooperating that I began to look for things that would help it stay in place. Normally this would involve some sort of hair product and maybe the careful application of heat to achieve the desired effect, but I was 5. The only “product” I had ever used was the Dep hair gel that came with my Barbie doll, and I had previously used it all when I was trying to get the “Ariel look” (remember the hand soap incident?). Anyway, I was desperate to get my hair to stay parted when I was struck with a brilliant idea. Hair dressers use scissors to style hair, right? … You can probably guess where this is headed.
I went to bed the night before picture day with the all confidence of knowing that I was going to have the best hair in the entire kindergarten class.
The next morning, after admiring how my new hairstyle looked with my new dress that my mom had made for my first school picture day, I went downstairs to finish getting ready for school. The next thing I knew my mom was flipping out. I mean she was seriously upset. She screamed in shock, “What happened to your hair?!?” This wasn’t exactly the reaction I was expecting. My mom was literally in tears.
I had cut a one-inch gap in my bangs at the center of my forehead.
I thought it looked amazing. My mom didn’t have the same opinion. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but she began yelling about my hair and picture day, something about all the time she spent on my dress and that all of her efforts were ruined because of my hair. I was in so much trouble that day.
You may be asking yourself, what does this story about my kindergarten picture day fiasco have to do with taking care of my teeth? Well, in all the years growing up I don’t ever remember taking care of my teeth being as important as my hair was on picture day.
To be clear, it’s not my mother’s fault. I was lucky and never had any issues with my teeth as a child. She took me to the dentist regularly and made sure I brushed my teeth thoroughly every morning and night. I never needed braces and I didn’t even get my first cavity until I was a senior in high school. I never had to worry about my teeth when I was growing up. After high school, however, going to the dentist became my own responsibility, and I didn’t set foot in a dentist office for nearly 10 years. I never had a second thought about my mouth unless I had terrible coffee breath.
I took my dental health for granted. Now I know better.
During one completely normal meal in my early twenties I took a bite of food and part of my molar fell out. Understandably I freaked. You know that horrible dream when all your teeth start falling out? Yeah, it was like that. But you know what? I didn’t go to the dentist. Do you know why? It wasn’t because I couldn’t afford it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t have the money for the dentist at the time, but somehow I always had the money to go get my hair done. I could have figured out a way to pay for the dentist if it had been as important to me as my hair was. And that’s my point.
I valued my hair over going to the dentist even though my tooth was CRUMBLING IN MY HAND.
A few years later, I ended up at the dentist because my broken tooth had developed an infection and I couldn’t stand the pain (it had never hurt before that, not even when it first broke). I ended up needing a root canal and at my dental appointment I learned that I clench my teeth when I’m sleeping. Because it had been going on for so long it caused my tooth to crack and break. I also learned that the same thing was happening to another tooth on the opposite side and that it needed a root canal as well. It’s a real possibility that both teeth will eventually need to be removed which will only lead to further, more expensive complications. Not only that, I am now statistically more likely to develop things like heart disease and diabetes.
You can read more on the link between your mouth and systemic diseases here.
Had I been going to the dentist regularly over the years I could have prevented this from happening. Instead I was spending my money on hair appointments. If I had valued my dental health as much as I valued my hair, I most likely would not be in this situation. For that I blame picture day.
The sad thing is that now, working in a dental office, I meet so many people who are like I was. They value almost anything over actually taking care of their health. Because that’s what a dentist visit is- taking care of your health. It’s no different than eating healthy, getting regular check-ups or going to the gym, but so many people see their mouth and their smile as a cosmetic commodity that only needs to be addressed when something hurts. When, in reality, your mouth is one of the most important parts of your body.
Think about it, almost every aspect of your life is impacted by your mouth. You use it to eat, communicate, kiss your loved ones, smile, express your emotions… I could go on. Not to mention the impact it has on the rest of your body. Think about what your life would be like if you didn’t have full use of your teeth and mouth. Would you be able to chew your favorite foods? How about smile in pictures? Would you want to kiss your significant other if you were embarrassed about your bad breath, or if they were repulsed by it?
Your mouth and your teeth have such a huge impact on your life. Why do so many of us prefer to pay sometimes hundreds of dollars to have our hair done, or nails, or spray tan or whatever else rather than take care of our teeth? I can tell you that for me it’s been a hard lesson learned. I hope that when I do eventually have children I will be able to take this hard won wisdom and put it into practice for them. I hope that you can learn from my experience as well and not take your dental health for granted.
What about you? Do you have any funny childhood stories that you would like to share? How about life lessons that you didn’t even know you learned in childhood until you became an adult? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.
About the Author
Renee Dodson is a marketing specialist currently working as the Marketing Director for W Dental Group in San Antonio, TX. She never dreamed of working in a dental office but when she realized that her dentist was looking for a marketing person she jumped on the opportunity and never looked back. Now you can find her out and about talking to patients & the public about the importance of taking care of your mouth and her own story with W Dental Group.