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A Cautionary Tale

I don’t share too many personal stories in this column, but there is one I would like to share with my readers.


When I was a teenager, I had braces. Not the kind they do today where they bond a bracket to your tooth, but the old-fashioned kind where a band went around every tooth! Of course, I tried my best to clean around all that hardware. I brushed (three times a day, minimum)!; I waterpicked!; (they didn’t teach us how to floss around braces back then—I learned that when I had my very first dental assisting job years after my braces were off.)


I went to my first monthly braces check appointment expecting to hear that I’d done a good job for my first month wearing them. Instead I got a grudging “it could be better” from an assistant at the end of my appointment, and only after I’d asked her—with no instructions on what I could try to do better.


Since I’d been doing everything I knew to do and it apparently wasn’t enough, it killed my motivation to keep trying.


But who did I really hurt by not putting the same effort into brushing my teeth for the remaining three plus years of braces? It wasn’t the orthodontist or his assistants (though they probably hated looking at the stuff I couldn’t seem to get out of my braces no matter how many times they sent me to brush). The person who was most hurt was me—or more specifically, my teeth.


When I finally did get the braces off, I had white areas on my teeth near the gumline. These white areas are “decalcified areas” called White Spot Lesions. I have at least one visible on a front tooth.  The decalcified areas feel more rough to dental instruments and there is not as much mineral content present, which means they can always be more likely to decay than other areas of my teeth.


There are a lot of things I wish: I wish the assistant had been more sensitive with what she said or had at least given me some direction in how to do better at cleaning around my braces. I wish I’d been strong enough to challenge her or to just let her remark roll off my back. But most of all . . .


I wish I’d known then what I know now. If this story helps one person who has given up on dental care to return before their teeth are irreversibly damaged, it is worth telling. Thank you for reading!


*This advice is not intended to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare provider.

If you don’t have a dentist and would like some dental encouragement, Dr. Jennifer Robb invites you to call 440-960-1940 to become part of her practice. Dr. Robb is a general dentist located at 1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH 44053. Once dental offices can reopen, she'll be saving a seat for you!