Brushing and Flossing

I made a commitment to myself to pursue dental care this year following a lengthy hiatus fueled by various barriers to care- sorting out dental insurance, COVID-19 safety precautions, and generalized work/ life hecticness superceding this specialty. Despite knowing how important periodontal health, particularly, is for people with diabetes, with all of the other healthcare appointments we endure, I’ll admit that my chompers took the back burner in my mind for too many years.

I definitely needed a tune up and received homework from an initial appointment roughly six months ago: rinse twice daily with antiseptic, floss far more frequently than a few times per year (cringing as I write this), procure an electric toothbrush for thorough cleansing, and overall just be more attentive to intertwining dental upkeep into my typical routine. I’ve always been a nerd, so I took the assignment to heart and I’m proud to say I’ve diligently maintained the plan.

At a recent appointment, the hygienist praised my improvements, fueled by my obvious newfound dedication to the cause.

“I can really tell that you’ve been doing everything we suggested. Your gums and teeth look healthy and you’re back on the right track. Please keep up the good work!”

“Honestly, it’s so nice to hear that. With type 1 diabetes, we try so hard every day but our resilience is not always reflected by objective results. I’ll take the dental win here, and it’s nice to know my efforts are actually working,” I replied.

I can’t stop thinking about the juxtaposition between diabetes-related healthcare and this specific dental appointment. My healthcare providers have certainly been empathetic about the difficulties of managing an unruly, sinister autoimmune disease, but I cannot recall a time when I’ve received a glowing report card in over thirty years of T1D. That notion hurts my heart, for all of us.

I must give credit where due to this new dental clinic. I shirked my way into their care, eyes downcast, ashamed and embarrassed that I had fallen astray for many years, and generally afraid to receive the typical scoldings people with diabetes garner from healthcare’s inherent biases. To my relief, this clinic welcomed me and met me where I was at. There was still time to enact change and see improvements, rather than wallow in the past. Their supportive attitudes encouraged me to go home and follow instructions, and I feel better having done so.

Imagine where we could go if every branch of healthcare got on our level and created a reasonable gameplan. I’m grateful that in this area of my life, at least, I’m on the Honor Roll again.

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