In my mid twenties I was eating a salad, and then, chewing down on an errant piece of lettuce, one of my teeth broke. My days of being invincible were over. Since then, I’ve been going back to that same dentist every six months. For I while, when I’d go in for this biannual clean-and-scale, I would think to myself that having a filling can’t be all that bad. 

Until the next time I needed a filling. Then I reapplied that a clean-and-scale is a walk in the park compared to having a new filling put in. The inconvenience. The expense. The self-loathing for not taking better care of my teeth.

I never liked going to the dentist when I was a little boy. One of my earliest memories is sitting alone in the dentist chair. The dentist displayed an array of different coloured bottles – they looked like the paint bottles from school. I picked orange, thinking “how bad can orange be?” It was orange flavoured fluoride. And I was never offered the choice again – the orange must have been written on my card.

I didn’t like that flavour the first time – in fact, I think I threw up every time I went to the dentist. Always the fluoride. And they never offered to change flavours. 

The new dentist is much better: he actually has his staff taste-test the fluoride to make sure the taste is as pleasant as possible. Despite all this, the childhood memory is really strong. But it seems I’m finally growing up. This visit marked the first time that I didn’t feel nauseous at the dentist.

What I learned from the childhood flashback was to try and make sure my kids have a strong sense of having a choice, wherever possible.

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