Your smile is one of the first thing people see. It’s made me fall in love with many of my exes. But what if gingivitis or bad breath got in the way of you expressing your full, toothy radiance?
It’s embarrassing, but I’ll admit it. I had gingivitis. All my life my parents took me to the dentist twice a year for general cleanings and check-ups. I had cavities filled on multiple occasions, more as a result of genetics and less on poor dental hygiene.
Back in my 20s I was at a dentist appointment when the dentist looked me in the eyes with pride and said five of the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard, “You have impeccable oral hygiene.”
I wore this as a badge of honor. It was something I thought about every time I smiled in the mirror and saw those post-two-and-a-half-years-of-braces
teeth. My smile was like my calling card, something I’ve been complimented on since I had braces back in high school. You could see my giant smile from the bleachers when I was on color guard, twirling flags and rifles around.
What’s That Smell?
I started noticing I had consistent bad breath, even after I brushed my teeth. It was one of the worst fates for me. I used to be the girl with gum in her mouth at all times unless she was eating. Always needing that cinnamon-y freshness to be the first thing that hit your nostrils when I opened my mouth.
I thought maybe it was because of dehydration, so I filled up on water and electrolytes. I flossed consistently, but the smell was still there. Insidiously lowering my confidence every time I opened my mouth to speak.
I have been out of my home country (America) the past three years. I was in graduate school out in Europe and then I went to Thailand to volunteer for eight months.
Depression took a hold of me while I was in Thailand and Oreos became my salvation. I don’t drink anymore, so I searched for comfort in high carbs and fat. Oreos covered in peanut butter became what I looked forward to through the haze of sadness.
The Bitterness of Consequences
After eight months of consistent Oreo eating and Thailand’s higher sugar intake than I was used to took a toll on my oral hygiene. By the time I returned to the states my mouth was probably in bad shape and slowly getting worse.
I didn’t have health insurance, so I put off going to the dentist. Waiting till I could afford it, I made my teeth less of a priority. By the time I finally got dental insurance it had been a year and a half since I had a cleaning.
Naturally, I wasn’t too worried. I had always had healthy teeth and gums. I don’t know if you heard, but at one point in my life I had impeccable oral hygiene.
So when the hygienist told me that I had gingivitis, my stomach plummeted so far south I could have birthed my large intestines. My eardrums started to cloud over and I felt as if I could have been in Garden State.
Gingivitis? What does that mean? I thought.
Luckily, gingivitis is 100% reversible. Apparently I had caught it in time before any bone loss or tooth decay took place. I was fortunate to have come in when I did.
Paying for the treatment — over $200 — I saw it as an investment for self-care. I also made my oral hygiene one of my top priorities and bought an electric toothbrush and a water flosser. I also mouthwash and floss and I chew sugar free gum daily.
While this might have been fun for you to read about my smelly breath and gingivitis, there’s more to this article. It’s the life lesson. With every event or circumstance, I like to see what I can take away from the experience and how I can use it to improve my life moving forward.
Impeccable oral hygiene (which I had) is the result of hard work. It doesn’t come naturally, it needs to be worked for on a daily basis. As an entrepreneur, I understand this concept. If I want to grow my business, I need to be dedicating significant time and energy into doing all the small things that promote it.
Once I started to treat my body poorly by feeding it junk food, I was creating a mindset that allowed other self-care and self-love actions to fall by the wayside, such as flossing everyday. My depression left me with a lack of motivation to care for myself in the most loving ways.
In summation, if I want to achieve impeccable oral hygiene or any accomplishment, I need to dedicate time and effort. Once I took my oral hygiene for granted I stopped nurturing it and caring for it, which allowed bad things (bacteria) to cultivate. If I want to maintain a healthy lifestyle and body, I must work for it.
It’s been three weeks since I started my gingivitis treatment and I can proudly say that that I’ve noticed a great improvement. My breath no longer smells, my teeth and gums don’t hurt when I brush and floss and there’s an extra glimmer to my smile — although that might be from knowing that I love myself enough to take care of my teeth.
Stinky breath might be indicative of a bigger problem. (Yes, this is a metaphor.) It might be more than gingivitis. It could be telling you that it’s time you take care of yourself.
Your stinky breath could be telling you that if you continue in the way you’re living, things are going to get worse. Pay attention to all the signs of stinky breath, in all its shapes and forms. Our bodies are trying to tell us something more about our habits and our lifestyle. I’m going to do a better job at smelling my breath from now on.
I’m working my way back to impeccable oral hygiene, one day at a time.
Brittany Noelle Roa is an interdisciplinary artist with an MFA in Physical Theatre who uses her art and creativity to heal herself and others. She loves learning about health and wellness so she can optimize her human potential to live a full and happy life.