Adventures in Alternative Dental Care

I hate going to the dentist. It’s not because I fear needles or drills or even the smells associated with dental offices. No, I hate the games that dentists play. They remind me of auto mechanics in the 1980s – back when a woman could drive up to get new tires and leave with a dozen extra “necessary” repairs because “you wouldn’t want your differential relay valve gasket going out on the highway, now would you?” Those mechanics preyed on a woman’s fears and the assumption that, because she was a woman, she knew next to nothing about cars. Dentists, in my opinion, are the same. Even though we all have teeth, most of us know little about them. We know to brush and floss and stay away from too much sugar but other than that, a dentist could tell us that a differential relay valve gasket would give us a better smile and we’d be all over it. Why do you think they have Care Credit card applications in almost every dental office these days? Because differential relay valve gaskets are not cheap!

Once upon a time, I had a wonderful dentist. He was sweet and kind and in 20 years of going to him, I only had to have two cavities filled and my wisdom teeth removed. He even sent me a birthday card every year. When I moved to Colorado, I entered a whole new world of the dental arts. My first check-up revealed that I was in need of about $10,000 worth of repairs. Mind you, I had just visited Dr. Wonderful six months prior! Needless to say, I did not grab a Care Credit app and sign my life away. I just stopped going to the dentist…until we moved to Florida, where I thought, surely things were different. Oh no, they were worse! There have been only two times in my life that I have cried in public like my heart was breaking to pieces in my chest. One was at my grandma’s funeral. The other was in the dentist office in Florida…where I had zero work done, not even a check-up, because the dentist made me feel like I was unworthy of being alive, much less sitting in the same room as him.

When I moved back to TN, my mom informed me that Dr. Wonderful had retired and that I would have to find a new dentist. She also told me about her harrowing experience at a chain dental office, where she went in to have a filling replaced and came out with 3 teeth pulled, a partial that never quite fit right, and a hole from her gum all the way to her sinus cavity. The hole later required surgery to close but not before causing some serious sinus infections. Her next choice in dentists fixed all of that, of course, and it only cost a few grand. A few grand??!! To have a filling replaced. That was the original problem, remember.

So, to bring this long story to a close, we decided some time ago to take charge of our own dental care and visit the dentist only when we deemed it necessary. You might be shaking your head now and calling me names like “crazy” and “extreme” but before you judge too harshly, I have one more story for you. A few months ago, I noticed a dark spot, possibly the beginnings of a cavity, on my front tooth at the gum line. My first thought was “my mom needs to stop with the holiday sweets!” My second thought was “OMG! There goes my mental health and my emergency fund!” Then I calmed down and pulled out my Owner’s Manual for Teeth (which is just a fun way of saying I have a bunch of websites that discuss alternative dental care bookmarked in Google). The one that caught my attention was on oil pulling. This was something that I had passively considered before but not something that I gave much credence to. How could swishing oil around your mouth do anything for you?

Oil pulling is believed to have the following benefits:

But I was skeptical. So, I bought a tiny $1 jar of coconut oil at Dollar Tree in early December and started swishing the next day – just a teaspoon at first. Coconut oil has no discernible flavor to me, but the texture was something I definitely had to get used to. I was able to go 10 minutes, after which I rinsed and brushed my teeth with a natural baking soda toothpaste. I immediately noticed that my mouth felt really clean – cleaner than usual. A week later, I actually noticed a visible difference. The dark spot was still there but it was half the size and my gums were nice and pink, just like they should be. And this morning, guess what! No spot at all! (Sorry, I don’t have before and after pictures because I honestly thought this was not going to work.) Angie and I are both doing oil pulling now and my mom is interested as well. She bought the oil but hasn’t brought herself to try it yet (it’s the texture thing, she says).

Have you tried it? What were your results?

If you’re interested in learning more about oil pulling, here’s a great video from Dr. Axe.

As a side note, we are in no way recommending that folks stop going to the dentist. If this is something that is part of your oral healthcare routine, please continue on. We’re simply saying that there are alternatives. We are recommending that you have a working knowledge of everything that you own – from your car to your body and everything in between. Knowledge really is power. You can choose to use it to care for yourself or at the very least, to be better prepared to discern the truth about what your dentist (or your doctor or even your mechanic) is telling you.

You Want Me To Do What??

A few weeks ago, the strangest thing happened. We were visiting with my mom, when my uncle called. He is the youngest of my mom’s siblings at 58 years old. They have always been close, even though they fight like cats and dogs much of the time; so, when she answered the phone, I gathered up my stuff to leave and let them talk. As I was waving goodbye, I heard her say, “Yes, she’s here. I’m not sure, you’ll have to ask her yourself.” The next thing I knew, I was on the phone with my uncle.

For the record, I don’t share my mom’s sentiments when it comes to my uncle. I tolerate him and am always nice to him, but we’ve never had much of a relationship. When I was growing up, he would go on rants and put his fist though the wall or block people from leaving the room until he was finished talking. I later learned that he was an addict at that time; but as a child, his behavior terrified me. Though he has not used drugs for 20+ years now, his personality has never really mellowed. He might not put his fist through walls anymore, but he still goes on rants that make you wish you could crawl under the furniture and disappear. He won’t talk to one of his daughters because of the way she voted in the last presidential election and his 13-year old son told me that he’d rather be dead than live with his dad. And here I was on the phone with him.

Over the past few years, I’ve talked to him a few times on his visits to see my mom. Once he was contemplating opening a community center and wanted my help in setting up a 501c3. I directed him to see a lawyer. As I held the phone, I thought perhaps he was going to ask me to write a grant to help fund his venture. In my mind, there was no other possibility for why he would want to talk to me. Then he asked me to be the trustee of his estate.

I had to let that sink in for a minute, which was pretty easy to do since he never stopped talking long enough for me to answer. As a fog settled around my brain, I caught snippets of things like money in a safe deposit box, envelopes with people’s names on them in the office safe, real estate taxes, and investing something for someone to do something with sometime. I wanted to scream. I am the last person who wants to be responsible for someone else’s finances.

If you are unsure (like I was) what the role of a trustee is, let’s look at it together. According to the website for the Law Offices of John W. Callinan:

A trustee is responsible for investing and administering the assets of the trust.  A trustee can be held liable to the beneficiaries of the trust if he invests the assets of the trust in an imprudent manner. A trustee must also distribute the assets of the trust to the beneficiaries of the trust according to the terms of the trust. The role of trustee may last for several months or several decades. So, unlike an executor, a trustee may be serving in his role for a long, long time.

When he finished talking, I gave him the best answer that I could muster: I’ll think about it. In the weeks that have followed, I’ve thought about it…and thought some more…but never once have I thought about saying yes.

I can’t do this.

When my uncle dies, his wife and kids will fight over his estate. I know this because they fight over it now and he rewards (or punishes) this behavior by giving (or withholding) money. Right now, my aunt owes more than $30,000 on her credit card. This is her 3rd time in the last decade to amass this amount of consumer debt. When my uncle wants her to do something, like quit her job or move back in after a separation, he offers to pay off her debt in full. She always accepts, then racks up the debt again. Same for the younger kids, except his bribes to them are in the form of gadgets and games, which I’ve watched them purposely break in order to get newer, better ones. And the madness doesn’t stop there. In the mid-90s, before my uncle got clean, he borrowed a total of $5,000 from 3 of his siblings to make payroll for his home-improvement business. He has never repaid those debts, despite having the money to do so many times over, and he makes a special point when any of them asks for financial help to tell them that he owes them nothing because “they had no business loaning money to an addict in the first place”.

Witnessing behavior like this is part of the reason that I have such an aberrant view of money. It makes me sad and angry and sick, all at the same time, to see people abuse one another all for the sake of a green piece of paper! I can’t be his trustee. I can’t be a part of something that goes against everything I believe in, on so many levels.

I wish that I could say that this type of behavior is rare but I’m not sure that it is. I once watched two sisters fight over who was taking home more plants at their father’s funeral. I also witnessed a grandchild throw a screaming fit at a funeral visitation because her dead grandfather had left his house to his oldest son instead of her. Angie even recalls a time when her nephew told her dad that he wished he was dead so he could get his inheritance and many more times where her siblings have had serious discussions with their parents about spending up all their money. I bet if you really thought about it, you know someone like this too. I hate that we’ve come to a place in this world where the sum of someone’s life means less than what we can gain from their death.

When my mom passes, I hope that she has lived a long, happy life unconcerned about what possessions she will leave behind. I honestly hope that she has spent ever last dime that she saved for her retirement by then. Her legacy gift to me should be the time we spend together while she’s here, not an insurance policy or a safe deposit box full of cash.

I ultimately told my uncle no. I gave no explanation other than that I thought it was a lot to ask and I didn’t think that I could do it. Perhaps that’s a cop out. Perhaps I should have told him how nauseous I felt just considering it, but I doubt it would have made any difference. I am never going to change the way he thinks about money. I can only change myself, and more than anything, this incident has confirmed for me that money is the least important part of my life.

Want to know what is important? Spending time together. Be sure to keep up with out latest adventures in dating through our 48 Really Great Dates project.