I Talk To Four Walls - an online journal

Tue Mar 6-  Oh great-grandma, what teeth you have

It's a small, small world in Vancouver despite there being tens of thousands of Chinese-Canadians. 

For example, the parents of some guy I attended high school for a couple of years with, and who we each kinda tormented, know my parents. Enough to briefly drop by on each other while one party is in the other's neighbourhood. Well, that part's kinda old news. But I just found this out - the frail, wheelchair-bound 80-something year-old lady who shares a room with my relatively robust, able-bodied great-grandmother at the nursing home, and who my great-grandmother frequently physically assaults and accuses of stealing her belongings (my ggm has a little bit of Alzheimer's amongst other things) is....drum roll please....that guy's grandmother. His poor grandmother (b/c of my ggm, not nec b/c him).

Example 2: some other guy who I was also in the same grade with in that high school is the cousin of my sister-in-law. Didn't know this til the wedding if even then.

Example 3: the sister of a former boss of mine was married to my friend's cousin. And I had attended high school with that boss' bro too. (I found these out after I was hired.)

The examples roll and roll and roll. If you badly wanted to find dirt about someone in the Chinese-Cdn community, it wouldn't be too difficult to do so.

There are also so many distant relatives in the Lower Mainland that I've never met or have seen but wouldn't recognize on the street. Maybe I've even interacted with them at some non-family-related event without even realizing our connection.

Tom the dental hygienist makes a quiet but audible sigh after sigh after sigh...there are signs of gum disease at my molars and some premolars. 

"Do you floss your teeth everyday?" he asks. "Yes," I reply, though sometimes I only floss once a day. It's okay to ask patients whether they floss daily but not whether they brushed their teeth daily. But what's the point? It'd only offend patients and put them on the defensive. And besides, dental professionals couldn't imagine that people *gasp* didn't brush their teeth at least twice a day anyway.

"You haven't been to the dentist for over a year. That's too long. You can have a baby in a year. So much can happen in a year, right? " 

"So how come you haven't been to the dentist for so long? You've been busy?" "No, not really. I just don't like going to the dentist."

"Gum disease happens very quietly. There are few symptoms. That's why you have to get checkups regularly. Do you know what gum disease is?" he asks. "A little bit," I answer. I certainly wasn't going to tell him that I used to study life sciences because people in life sciences wouldn't have gum disease.

"I strongly suggest you see the dentist every six months."

"It's better to lose your front teeth than your molars."

Meanwhile, the water from the ultrasonic device and my saliva splatter like a fine fountain from my mouth onto my face and glasses. When Tom presses too hard for too long at certain parts of my mouth, the side of my jaws near my ears hurt. And I gag every time he makes me close my mouth around that suction tube.

After all the scraping and polishing are finally over with, he shows me how to properly floss. He knots the ends of the piece of floss together several times to make a loop. I have to floss deeper, mining into the gums of each side of the teeth. And in tight spaces, I have to do a sawing motion. 

And at the end he whips out a chart showing gum disease, or periodontitis. When  bacteria in the pockets of the gums release enzymes, the bone which supports the gums dissolves. The bone doesn't regenerate and the gum recedes from the teeth. 80% of adults get gum disease and most of these people hadn't gone to their dentists every 6 months, Tom informs me. Of course, he politely doesn't tell me how much lower the statistic is amongst younger adults like me.

Afterward he checks with the dentist about the wobbly part of a tooth that had fractured. The dentist informs him,  from my dental records, that it's been like that since 1996. News to me.

I thank Tom and leave with a new toothbrush and dental floss in my pocket, and my tail between my legs.

My 100 year-old great-grandmother still has all of her teeth but I doubt I will to the end. Then again, she'll outlive all of us too.


Shopping List:

Water pik for flushing out food particles unreachable by my toothbrush and dental floss, as instructed by Tom


I finally find the most efficient route between my home and my modern dance class (without missing exits, etc and getting lost in general) and I only have 1 class left!


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