I went to the dentist last week. It's the first time I've been in a year, first because I was out of the country and then because I guess my dentist got super popular while I was gone so I couldn't get an appointment. I wasn't too concerned about it, because I hadn't gone to the dentist for like four years before that due to a lack of dental insurance and a related aversion to spending upwards of $75 to be lectured to about teeth when I know plenty of dental anthropologists who will do that for free, sometimes unasked. And my teeth hadn't dissolved or anything, so once a year seems pretty luxurious and responsible. And now I'm married to a dude with a real job that provides benefits like dental insurance, so I can be lectured about teeth twice a year for free. Also, he is currently advising on a project about dental microwear, so sometimes he lectures me about teeth too. My cup overfloweth.
Anyway. My hard-won appointment was only for the cleaning and x-rays, because the dentist was out on some unspecified business, presumably dental as I am unable to picture my dentist doing anything that doesn't involve pointing at x-rays while wearing blue nitrile gloves. The hygienist was unbelievably enthusiastic about my flossing choices ("Do you floss?" "Yes, I use one of those Reach flossers once a day?" "Oh, we love those!") and corrected the trout-like mouth gape I use while brushing, making it impossible to reach my molars. Then she complimented my admittedly excellent gums. I came home on a wave of congratulations and positive reinforcement, brushing (with mouth mostly closed) and flossing my heart out. Some days I even brushed morning AND night, because my good dental health is mostly luck but I felt I should try to live up to the hype. I clung irrationally to my free toothbrush, which I found in my purse when my husband realized he hadn't packed a toothbrush for our trip to Reno: "But I got it from the dentist!" I said, as though it were mystically bestowed upon me by the Dentist in the Lake and thus untransferable. I was a machine of both dental health and toothbrush hoarding.
And then I realized that dental hygienists are masters of the shit sandwich.