One day, when I was in college, I was snacking on cookie dough from the fridge. I bit down on something hard, but it didn’t feel like a chocolate chip. Turns out, it was one of my teeth. It had rotted and fallen out. I didn’t even feel any pain. It was a strange experience, but honestly, not a surprising one. I think of myself as having weak teeth. My mom’s the same way, so some of it must be genetic. Even as a child, I got cavities in my baby teeth. Once I grew my adult teeth, the cavities continued. I went to the dentist twice a year during my childhood and teen years, and at every appointment, it wasn’t unusual to need a cavity filled. The dentist told me I just needed to keep an extra-close eye on my teeth and make sure to brush twice a day and floss once a day. And I was pretty good about keeping up with my oral hygiene growing up. However, when I started college, I let some things slide. Once I got to school, I didn’t go to the dentist regularly. I didn’t eat very well and didn’t brush or floss as often as I had growing up. This pattern continued after I graduated and moved out on my own to a new city. I knew I should be taking better care of my teeth, but I wasn’t at a point where I felt I needed to prioritize my dental health. Time for a Change When I turned 30, I moved back to the city I grew up in. It was time to start laying roots and getting my life together, and I knew that included taking care of my teeth. I’d ignored my dental health for years and it wasn’t a good feeling; I wanted to get back on track. Because of my history, I knew things would probably be pretty bad. I asked one of my coworkers for a dentist referral and went to see her cosmetic dentist. He told me I had a ton of cavities and would need eight crowns and three fillings. This was really overwhelming; I expected it to be bad, but not that bad. I decided to get a second opinion before I spent a lot of my time and money. My mom thought it’d be a good idea for me to see her dentist, especially since we both have problematic teeth. As soon as I walked in to meet the dentist, I told him “you know what you’re dealing with,” because my mouth is just like my mom’s. He examined my mouth and told me I only needed one crown and three cavities filled. It was a huge relief. I also found it really helpful when the dental hygienist gave me a quick review on oral hygiene. She showed me the right way to floss, demonstrating how I need to wrap the floss around the tooth—something no one had explicitly shown me. She recommended an electric toothbrush, and she talked with me about the type of toothpaste I was using. She told me it’s important to brush with toothpaste that contains fluoride to protect my teeth. Now, I feel much more confident in my oral hygiene. I use a special pick to reach spaces in the back of my mouth and I also have a water flosser to get that extra clean feeling. I feel so much better now that my dental care is in the right hands and I don’t have to worry my teeth will rot and fall out. I’ll always have dental issues—a lot of it’s just bad luck and genetics. But I feel so much more in control of my dental health now. I know I still need to work on curbing my sweet tooth, but when it comes to dentist appointments, brushing, and flossing, I’m committed to keeping my smile healthy and happy. Elizabeth is 39 years old and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.