My last visit to a dentist office was about four years ago when I had a cavity filled and, later, my wisdom teeth pulled.

I missed about a week of work and it took my mouth another month to feel normal again.

As a result, I avoided dentists for a while.

My childrens’ latest visit to the dentist encouraged me to get back into the saddle. My daughter had two cavities and my son, one.

I expected that I might have a few cavities, too. I had none, but my dentist did ask me about a cosmetic issue. Middle age and years of drinking coffee have stained and yellowed my teeth. More about that a bit more later.

While I was a little fearful going into the appointment, my dental hygienist erased every trace of it. She led me from the waiting room and through the hall where she hummed a tune with my name in it. We both laughed and once I reached the dental chair, she asked me what I’d planned to cook for a Thanksgiving meal the following day. “I have no idea,” I told her. “But I don’t really want turkey”

We laughed. That’s when she talked about her shrimp, grits and cheese casserole dish that she’d prepared for her coworkers.

A passing co-worker looked into the room. “It was delicious,” she told us.

I asked my dental hygienist for the recipe and she printed it out. Don’t forget the mimosas, she added.

That’s when I got really happy. “How do you make a mimosa?”

“Champagne with a splash of orange juice. ”

The hygienist had turned what could have been an uncomfortable experience into a fun and memorable one. While she scraped tartar buildup from my teeth, I read through her recipe and dreamed of drinking one of her mimosas as she described cooking the shrimpy grits.

The visit was going well until she touched a few sensitive teeth and I screeched.

“You’ve been brushing too hard,” the dentist later told me. Overbrushing had led to sensitive teeth and receding gums, exposing the root area, he told me.

“Do you have any other concerns?” my dentist asked.

I laughed nervously. “Why are my teeth turning yellow?”

“Coffee and tea stains and also age,” he said.

He pulled a miniature chart displaying tooth shades. I gasped as he pointed to the tan-colored tooth which most resembled mine and then he pointed to the more desirable pearly white tooth.

“It’s time to whiten them up,” I told him.

Turns out, there’s a lot to choose from, including in-office teeth whitening to the home tooth-whitening systems. I don’t know which I will ultimately choose, but I want to get my pearly whites back and I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about visiting the dentist again.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at