Believe it or not, I don't floss. This may not sound newsworthy, but my dad's a dentist. I've been taught to brush and floss from a young age. I've got the brushing down, but somewhere along the line I gave up on flossing. Too much work.
What may be more newsworthy from this daughter of a dentist is the irony of Dad's profession and our last name: Payne. Not exactly the name you want to see on your dentist's door, but my dad is great at what he does and does everything he can to ensure patients are as comfortable as possible.
Not surprisingly, I've got good teeth. Part of this is genetics — Dad's never had a cavity. With a dentist dad and a dietitian mom, people commonly assumed that we never had sweets in the house. Quite the contrary. There were always sweets in the house, mostly homemade. My brother and I were just taught to eat in moderation (thanks, Mom) and brush our teeth twice a day (you, too, Dad). Gum, on the other hand, was another story. To this day, if I ask my dad for a piece of gum, he'll hand me half a stick. "TMJs, sweetie, TMJs," he'll say. TMJ is dentist for temporomandibular joint — the jaw, which can get fatigued by chewing big pieces of gum or indulging too often.
My life as a dentist's daughter has had some quirks that are near and dear to my heart. Take, for instance, the occasional molds of anonymous patients' teeth that I'll find in the house. Who else has random sets of chompers lying around? Or, dad's references to cavities as "sugar bugs," a term he came up with to teach kids — and maybe some adults — about the dangers of dental caries (the medical term for tooth decay). At Christmas, a toothbrush and pack of floss in the bottom of my stocking are standard, to which I reply, "Dad, you really shouldn't have!"
Certainly, there are some aspects of the dentist's life that aren't convenient. Namely, the emergency calls from patients requiring a very late-night or early-morning weekend visit. We've learned to accept that teeth are very demanding. To this day, he'll skip dinner to meet a patient at the office who's broken off a crown. People may hate going to the dentist, but that story quickly changes when they're in desperate need. I hated it when he'd have to leave during family time, but I can't fault him for caring about his patients.
When I have a concern about my teeth, I'll ask Dad to take a look at them. Jokingly, he'll say, "You need to go see your dentist." I think sometimes he's just had enough teeth for one day. But when he's not toothed-out, he'll ask me, "Is it number 10 or 11?" Each tooth has a number, and Dad thinks I know what they are. Usually, I just shrug my shoulders and point to the tooth in question. He'll pull out a flashlight, tell me to open wide, and peer into the abyss that is my mouth. Suddenly, our kitchen becomes a makeshift dental office. And usually, he'll tell me I need to floss.