Local Lifestyle

Saturday, May 25 2013 12:00 PM

HERB BENHAM: Desire to keep one's teeth: Is it even a question?

By The Bakersfield Californian

Last Monday I went to the dentist. It had been six months since my last visit. Things happen with teeth; seldom do they become healthier and more photogenic with time.

After I kicked off my shoes and sat down -- the sleek, comfortable dentist chair just inviting patients to be casual -- the woman checking in patients handed me a clipboard and a pen. Attached to the clipboard was a patient survey printed on brown paper sharing the same color and heft as a grocery bag.

Under "Dental History," between "Has a dentist ever behaved badly toward you?" and "Is there anything about dental treatment that bothers you" was the following question:

"Is it important for you to keep your teeth?"

Was it important for me to keep my teeth?

Was this a trick question? The sort of thing they throw in to measure whether somebody is paying attention or just hurrying through and marking "no" in the boxes?

"Is it important for you to keep your teeth?"

Had anybody in the history of the survey answered "no" to that question?

"No" as in, "No, it is not important for me to keep my teeth."

What would be the circumstances under which somebody might say, "It is not important for me to keep my teeth"?

We've all met people who were unhappy with their noses; they had a honker, it was spread across their face like Eurasia or they had a dipper with which they could pick up loose change.

Same with ears and the dramatic shapes -- some suggesting the possibility of flight -- distinguishing those necessary appendages.

However, even if your teeth were like mine -- a row of whitish brown corn nuts -- it is hard to imagine surrendering them unless Anthony Hopkins had you in a compromising position and Jodie Foster had been assigned to another case.

I don't see myself as paranoid, but I wondered whether this question might have been directed toward me.

Were the dentist and dental hygienist suggesting that if I continued to follow the dental path on which I had embarked and did not change my cavalier approach to dental hygiene I would be as good as toothless before Thanksgiving?

I had considered buying an electric toothbrush a year ago after a somber conversation with the hygienist. She had given me the coupons, but I had never followed through. Same with the Waterpik.

She had made these suggestions after discovering I had continued to do a half-hearted job on my back molars.

Were they trying to tell me: "Hey Mr. Corn Nut Teeth. How do you feel about being toothless? You can kiss those boys goodbye."

This is not to make fun of people who don't have teeth. However, I cannot imagine abandoning my teeth unless Dr. Hopkins gave me no choice or there was a medical reason involving a non-responsive parachute.

Nonetheless, I checked "Yes, it is important for me to keep my teeth."

Last night I flossed, brushed and used the gum stimulator, a rubber tip attached to a metal handle.

Should it move the needle and prove effective in deterring my wicked ways, I am not opposed to a Waterpik either. Some people say "yes" to life. I say the same to teeth.

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