The Unexpected Benefits of FIRE

Two days ago I went to the dentist.

This is a big fucking deal because the last time I graced a dentist’s office was in 2012.

 

A Horror Story

The first clue that there was something off about my dentistry appeared when I was closing in on my 14th month of life with nary a tooth in sight. My parents had just about resigned themselves to being the world’s only parents of a toddler with dentures when my first tooth shyly emerged. It was a molar.

Fast forward a few years and I had a mouth full of pearly whites and that early warning sign was all but forgotten. ‘Twas the season for my baby teeth to gracefully make way for my permanent set. My baby teeth politely, but vehemently, disagreed. They seemed to think that since they showed up late to the party they should get to stay on for a few extra months. Or years. Or forever.

My friends had teeth falling out of their gums, and the Tooth Fairy leaving them small fortunes under the pillows on which they rested their smug little cute gap-toothed smiles. Me? I had a mouth full of house guests that were supposed to stay for a week but now it has been six months and they’ve acquired a cat and have their own profile on my fucking Netflix account.

 

While my baby teeth squatted illegally in my mouth, my body said Fuck It! and decided that the best thing thing to do in this situation was to grow more teeth.

*Cue the theme song from Jaws*

There were teeth everywhere. Grumpy baby teeth were rudely jostled aside by permanent teeth. There were teeth standing sideways, holding in their breath, trying to fit. Teeth on tip-toes, peeking over the head of other teeth. The real estate of my mouth was limited, so some enterprising teeth decided to go the way of pioneers and strike out for wide, open lands with plenty of space. They grew out of my gums parallel to the ground. If I had smiled at a shark, the shark would have pissed its pants.

unexpected benefits of FIRE

What followed was many painful years in the dentist chair. My obdurate baby teeth were extracted. It turns out that their pigheadedness was due to the fact that they had put down roots akin to adult teeth. My baby teeth were featured in a paper that my dentist wrote; those bastards are more famous that I am.

Then the unholy mess in my mouth had to be corrected over many, many long years of orthodontic treatments. I wore braces for eleventy-thousand years. My teeth hurt non-stop. A couple of adult teeth were extracted to make room in my mouth. Ever so slowly my remaining teeth were pushed and pulled and twisted and beaten into submission. My father was in the army and we moved around a lot, so all of this work was done at a variety of dentists over the years, and let us just say that some of these dentists were strong believers in the philosophy that pain is the forge in which the soul must be tempered.

 

The end result? I fucking hate visiting the dentist. I brush my teeth. I floss (though far less regularly than I should. And no, I will not tell you how often that is). And I almost never go to the dentist. I visited three times in 2012 because a tooth started to hurt. The dentist fixed the problem and then I promptly went back to pretending that my universe was happily dentist-free.  

 

My Mouth On FIRE

So what prompted me to haul ass to the dentist recently?

It was FIRE.

The pursuit of financial independence and early retirement has been good for me and for my family in so many ways. The most obvious one is the fact that it has made us richer. It has given us options. It will, in short order, allow me the freedom to do whatever the fuck I want with my life.

 

All these outcomes are wonderful, but also extremely predictable.

 

I would not have predicted that FIRE would be the sword that finally vanquished my dentist phobia.

 

There are two factors at play.

The first factor is financial. We have a good dental plan right now, subsidized by Mr. BITA’s employer. If I don’t care for my teeth now, chances are that I will have to take care of them later, and on my own dime. For new-FIRE-pursuing me the thought of raiding my precious Stash to drop thousands on dental repair that I could have avoided is anathema.

The second consideration is Future Me.

I care more about FIREd-Future-Me than I ever did about Work-Till-You-Drop-Future-Me.

FIREd future me has the potential to live a very happy life of exploration and creation. You know what FIREd future me doesn’t need? A fucking mouthful of rotting teeth.

It was like someone had lit a FIRE under my arse, and off to the dentist I went.

I even have two follow up appointments scheduled for November. #adultingwithavengeance.

 

Unexpected Benefits of FIRE

This may be one of the things (apart from that lovely growing Stash) that I enjoy most about the pursuit of financial independence and early retirement:

The unexpected benefits.

 

I set out to save and invest, and I learned that getting off the hedonic treadmill made me much more appreciative of little things that I had started to take for granted, like eating out.

I set out to save and invest, and I discovered parks with streams to splash around in.

I set out to save and invest, and I discovered fellowship in my local Buy Nothing group.

I set out to save and invest, and this blog was born, I have a new community of awesome friends and readers and even the opportunity to walk down the red carpet as an award nominee.

I set out to save and invest, and the next thing I know I’m sitting in the fucking dentist chair.

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18 thoughts on “The Unexpected Benefits of FIRE”

  1. Looooove this. So few adults prioritize caring for their teeth.

    My dad once told me a story that’s stayed with me.

    He had a coworker who was retiring after working for the government for 50 years. My dad asked him, “Jerry, if you could do everything over again, what would you do differently.”

    Jerry said two things. First, he would have gone to Hawaii when he was young so he’d look good in a swimsuit. Second, he wished he’d taken better care of his teeth.

    Teeth aren’t a big deal when they’re healthy, but once you don’t have teeth, you really miss ’em.

    1. And WOW are teeth issues expensive!! (And freaking painful…) Use that insurance to your advantage! Anyone ever look at who has the highest student loans out there…. Dentists. No way those costs are going down in the future! CONGRATS on the Plutus nomination too! SO well deserved!!

      1. Thank you Vicki! As one of the earliest readers of this blog, your words mean a lot to me.

        I have additional motivation in the form of an LPFSA. It is use it or lose it and I have no freaking intention of losing it.

      2. Teeth issues can be expensive if left to become issues, prevention is key in dentistry! As a dentist myself I tell people all the time that if you come in regularly for your cleaning and checkups it is my mission to help YOU prevent “issues”! More time seeing the hygenist less time see ME! Nearly all issues in dentistry are preventable you just have to give us the chance to prevent them or identify them before they are painful (painful usually means expensive issues). I hope you keep up your regular visits and with time grow to enjoy having a healthy mouth and relationship with your dental care team! Prevention dentistry is affordable dentistry! 🙂

        1. You are so right. Now if only I can get my lizard brain to do what my rational brain knows is the right thing to do…

    2. Dr. Seuss would tend to agree. “Teeth! They are very much in style. They must be very much worthwhile.”
      I hope I’m not too late to save ’em.

  2. A thousand times Amen, Mrs. BITA. I am getting #18 crowned next week because 1) I have a good dental plan 2) I have two more crowns and old fillings to be replaced and I am spacing it out over next two years because of my FIRE date. I was sitting and reading in horror about your childhood dental issues and reliving my own. Fortunately, my adult teeth have been much nicer but the root of all my current travails are because of my pre-adolescent dental issues of numerous fillings DESPITE being quite nice and caring about them all. I have one goal as I tell my dentist “Want to die with all of my teeth”. So far, she thinks this is very likely. 😀
    Your story now resonates with me on another level – shared horror and terror in the dental chair.

    1. A fellow sufferer! #18 eh? You are much further along in your journey of toothy redemption than I am. To us! When we are but a sack of wrinkles may we be able to lay waste to apples with our bare teeth!

  3. So funny I am reading this today as I literally JUST made a dentist appointment after almost 3 years. My story is nothing in comparison to yours (HOLY SHIT!), but I detest going to the dentist nonetheless. Last week I realized I am paying for coverage for something I don’t even use which pisses me off more than taking the chair so alas the appointment was made today. They better not find anything!! Looking forward to seeing you and your pearly whites next week!

    1. I’m hoping against hope that Toddler BITA will inherit her father’s teeth and not mine. If she gets mine she might have to choose between looking like a shark and going to college.

  4. I’m usually far more afraid of the optometrist than the dentist but I fear dental issues like the dang plague. My poor mom went through some severe dental deterioration as a side effect of some of her medications and it was an utter nightmare for months.

    Floss should be our best friend on the road of FIRE – keeping us gingivitis free and away from the dentist’s chair.

    1. Floss and some non-shitty dental genes would be really nice. My Dad has amazing teeth. He is nearing 70. He never visited a dentist until he was nearly 50. In the last two decades he has needed one filling. He can crack open walnuts with his teeth. Guess whose teeth I inherited? I’m hoping Toddler BITA did better at the genetic lottery than I.

      Sorry to hear about your mum, that sounds nightmarish.

  5. i just went to the fucking dentist. much like your dad’s friend i wish i had taken better care of those bad boys in my relative youth. gotta use those generous benefits while we still have ’em.

  6. Please don’t ban me….because I *love* going to the dentist! Lay me back in the chair and my eyes close like one of those baby dolls… ready to go to sleep. I love the feeling of clean teeth.
    I grew up in tooth obsessed America, but in a small rural town with no flouride in the water, so I had my share of silver fillings as a kid. Wisdom teeth removed, long term new ceramic fillings to replace silver, and adult braces (including a final rubber banded shut period where I went to Italy and couldn’t easily eat – a true crime) filled out my time…but also brought Great Wisdom.
    Turns out, besides flossing & brushing regularly, you can get extra cleanings!
    During my Time of Braces, I had cleanings done every 3mo at the ortho’s reco. Two per year paid by insurance and two per year paid by me, but at the negotiated discounted insurance rate. After braces, I go every 4mo and pay one cleaning session out of pocket – and it is So Worth It.
    You get professionally cleaned and duly reminded… and it’s easier to maintain than to come back and fix…
    So, if you can get over your fear and loathing, it’s actually not a bad experience, once you maintain.

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