MIKE ROKE: What advice would you give to your younger self?


As I fast approach the wrong side of 40, I look back on the life experience I've picked up along the way and think "What advice would I give my 18-year-old self if I had the opportunity?

First thoughts are there are many I would say - but I will choose two.

First - Do not buy that 1990 Toyota Celica. Sure it looks nice from the outside, but the previous owner very much polished a turd. After 6 months it will die and sit in your mums driveway for over a year until you finally get around to towing it to a wrecker. That was $4000 down the toilet.

Second - Go to the dentist regularly, stop drinking fizzy drink and look after your teeth. 

I remember in my early 20’s I would state, with almost pride to anyone that would listen, that I had not been to the dentist since I was 18. I brushed my teeth twice a day, so as far as I was concerned - job done. Looking back, I can’t believe my idiocy.

I already had a number of fillings from my younger days. Far too much fizzy drink and packet orange juice (you know, the Raro type stuff) is to blame. So you would think I would be more careful with my teeth once the free dental nurse visits were over with. Right? But no.

It was almost 10 years of neglect until I had to relent and go to the dentist. I only did that because pretty much every time I brushed my teeth, my gums were bleeding. That ain’t good.

So I go in and it was like some kind of horror show. Plaque build-up like barnacles on a humpback whale, holes galore, gingivitis, it was a nightmare.

The dentist gave me a reality check for sure. As he listed off the cost of each procedure required to get my mouth healthy again, I sank lower and lower into his uncomfortable mega recliner.

All that money I ‘saved’ by not going to the dentist for all those years has gone - and then some. It's not like I put that money in a nice high interest slush fund either. It was probably spent on fizzy drink and fast food.

I don’t know the exact amount spent on fixing up my teeth and I don’t really want to know. It would be over $10,000 comfortably though, and that's a lot of dentist visits.

The dentist is not cheap, that's for sure. It is not much fun either. Having someone poking, prodding and scraping around in your mouth with instruments of torture is not an exciting way to spend your lunch break from work - but the alternative is much worse.

Regular six-monthly visits to the dental hygienist would set you back in the vicinity of $300 a year. That sounds like a lot, and I know there's plenty of things you would rather do with your money, but I would encourage you to find a way to make it happen.

I have learnt from my mistakes. I signed up to a dental hygiene plan at my dentist. It direct debits me $24.92 a month, and for that I get two dental hygiene appointments and one dentist check-up each year.

I just recently had my first hygienist appointment for the year, and for the first time in a very long time I received a glowing report. My mouth is as healthy as it has been, probably ever.

So stop drinking that fizzy drink (and yes I think it should be banned from schools. Kids cannot be trusted to make good dental hygiene decisions) and go to the dentist regularly.

That is the advice I would give my younger self.

Only question is - would I have listened?

Mike Roke is technical producer for RadioLIVE Drive with Alison Mau, 3-6pm weekdays.

VIDEO LINK: Duncan Garner talks with Dr. Rob Beaglehole, spokesperson for the NZ Dental Association, who wants sugary drinks taken out of NZ schools.