Teeth of a model. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yesterday, as I sat in my dentist’s chair for my six-month teeth cleaning and checkup, I felt a cold hand clutch my heart as it occurred to me that at some point my teeth will probably reach a point of no return when the last tooth will fall out of my head.
No I don’t have plaque buildup or the disease that attacks gums, I have saliva that attacks my teeth according to the hygienist. She says my chemistry has changed as I have aged.
That might seem unthinkable in today’s modern world of dentistry and medicine, but lately, every time I visit the dentist he finds something else. Not only that, I have discovered if you have a filling, decay can set in underneath and cause havoc.
teeth (Photo credit: jfraser)
I declined the full mouth X-ray this visit, fearing what might lie beneath. My motto with teeth is, “If I can’t feel it don’t fix it.” Besides, my regular hygienist is on maternity leave and I don’t completely trust the novice who sprayed water in my face three times while cleaning my teeth.
You’re doing okay says Dr. L., but next time you should have the full mouth X-ray. Okay I say meekly, knowing the regular gal will have returned by July, and happy to escape his clutches and check out at the reception desk for six more months of denial.
On the way home from our dentist, David tells me he has a cavity. This is his first in 30 years or more. For a second, I think “it’s about time,” and then remember I don’t want him to fall apart either.
When we were younger, neither David nor I had regular dental care. We lived in the South during the Depression and WWII and came from relatively poor families where dental care was not a high priority in our parents list of concerns. My parents doctored my sibs and I with a home-made first aid kit. I remember sulphur and gauze and iodine. Dad pulled splinters out of our feet and wormed us periodically. Mom gave us paregoric for various ailments. I frequently had stomach aches from eating things I found outside, so paregoric was an important medicine in our house.
I don’t want to cause anyone distress with the list of home remedies, so I will fudge a bit and say, we never had regular medical care when I was young. I had my tonsils out and my appendix burst, but other than those encounters with doctors, all my bouts with pneumonia and other “childhood” diseases were my Mom’s responsibility.
When I had children, I didn’t know the difference between no care and some care and spent an inordinate amount of time in the emergency room at the Naval hospital with my children or me having the odd miscarriage.
English: Dental caries. Bacteria, sugar, time and teeth all combine to produce tooth decay മലയാളം: ദന്തക്ഷയത്തിനുള്ള കാരണങ്ങൾ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After I became more educated and landed a decent job, I discovered that other people saw doctors for annual checkups. Furthermore, I now had a great insurance policy and could afford the co-pay, so I could see a doctor on a regular basis. Eventually, I saw a string of dentists on a regular basis too.
After a while, I began to realize that preventative care made a difference, and I learned more about the role good nutrition and exercise play in healthful living.
Two years ago I underwent testing for leukemia for many months. Eventually, the hematologist/oncologist I saw during this time decided I had no problems and let me go. During the time I saw him, however, he had an elderly patient in her 90s who reached the “end of the line” with possible treatments. He was quite distressed as he was forced to tell her he could do nothing else for her.
At some point many of us will hear a similar message. The day will come when the pills don’t work and neither does anything else. But before that day, on some day you hardly notice, you will reach a tipping point of no return in your health. Another reason to live in the present moment.