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I got a chemical-free “mouth facial”—here’s what happened


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Photo: Getty Images/Sirinapa Wannapat

As a cavity-prone little kid (and adult, for that matter), going to the dentist is historically my least favorite activity. Every visit goes a little something like this: My gums are pretty healthy, even if I could use a little extra flossing. I have a pretty good bite, and all of my teeth are relatively straight. So far, so good…but then comes time for the cavity diagnosis at the end of the visit, and my heart starts to race.

Thanks to a perfect storm of inexplicably weak enamel and deep grooves in my molars, I’ve been told by at least three dentists that I will probably have cavities for the rest of my life. After each visit, I’m sent off with coupons for foul-tasting, chemical-filled fluoride treatments and a half-hearted “good luck.” Spoiler alert: The luck never comes, but the cavities do.

After interviewing Gerry Curatola, DDS, about the oral microbiome last month, I developed a bit of an obsession with taking better care the bacteria in my mouth. So when Dr. Coratola offered me a “mouth facial,” which included a gum mask and a jaw massage (how amazing does that sound?) I jumped at the chance. What I didn’t realize was that I was also signing up for a dentist appointment.

After each visit, I’m sent off with coupons for foul-tasting, chemical-filled fluoride treatments and a half-hearted “good luck.”

Once I resigned myself to the fact that I was getting a standard checkup and cleaning on top of a mouth facial, I settled in for some x-rays. As Rejuvenation Dentistry‘s hygienist Courtney set up the machine and put some drops meant to mitigate the radiation’s effects under my tongue, she explained that everything she would use was chemical-free, because the practice operates with the philosophy that chemicals do more harm than good. She then conducted an oral cancer screening test with a tool called Identafi, a fluorescent light that can pick up on abnormal cells more easily than the naked eye.

Informing me that I was abnormal cell-free, Courtney put hydrating chapstick on my lips (why don’t more dentists do this?) before getting to work on what was a fairly standard cleaning—except for the no chemicals bit. The lack of strong flavors in my mouth made the whole experience a lot less gag-worthy, and at the end, she took pictures of my teeth individually and used a small, non-threatening tool to check the health of gums. My gums were okay, but I needed to floss more. Sounds about right.

About that jaw massage…

It was the most fantastic dental experience I’ve ever had. Courtney slathered some of Dr. Curatola’s signature probiotic toothpaste on my gums—this was the promised “gum mask”—and then had me take a few deep, essential-oil-filled breaths.

I was reminded of how I feel at the end of every yoga class: The poses themselves are hard work, but it’s worth it at the end when I settle into the delicious, restorative experience that is Savasana.

She then gave me a gentle jaw massage, working into areas of my jaw I didn’t even know where tight, all the way up to my temples. Nearly nodding off, I was reminded of how I feel at the end of every yoga class: The poses themselves are hard work, but it’s worth it at the end when I settle into the delicious, restorative experience that is Savasana. According to Dr. Curatola, the massage is to make people dread coming to the dentist just a little less. Seems like a pretty good incentive to me.

Here’s the not-so-fun part: Dr. Curatola came in at the end and informed that that I had not one, not two, but eight cavities. He explained that their advanced imaging tools made it so that they could pick up on tiny cavities that other dentists couldn’t. But rather than shrugging and telling me to swish fluoride around in my mouth more often, Dr. Curatola was actually helpful. He told me that after he took care of my cavities, he would do some preventative work by putting in some non-toxic sealants. And by loading up my diet with green, alkalizing, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant foods, I could also better stave off cavities. Done, done, and done.

When Dr. Curatola and I parted ways, he left me with one last, encouraging message: If I took smart, thorough care of my teeth, I would never have eight cavities again. Music to my ears—and my mouth.

While we’re on the topic, here are 6 oral hygiene mistakes you might be making. But this is one step in your routine dentists say is a-okay to skip.

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