Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Life-Lesson from My Dentist

So I’ve always had pretty good, strong teeth.  Actually, all of my bones are strong.  The only bone I’ve ever broken was my skull, which was the result of an unfortunate accident involving a 4-year-old on a big wheel (me) riding under a neighbor who was trying to build a tree house out of bricks.  Somehow my little cranium saved me from a brick falling twelve feet from the sky, although I did spend a couple of months in the hospital with a depressed skull fracture.  But other than that, all of my bones have stood the test of time, including my teeth.

I had braces in junior high because my adult teeth decided to sprout up this way and that.  I thank my parents for spending the money on me then.  Braces aren’t a whole lot of fun, and I don’t have fond memories of when I had them, but at least they corrected a moderate overbite and forced all of my teeth back in line.

All my life I’ve gone to the dentist semi-mostly-regularly.  I think at one point I allowed maybe eighteen months to pass between visits, but for the most part I’ve tried to go every six months or so.  My company reimburses a certain dollar amount for dental and vision, and I was essentially free to go to any dentist I wanted.  I tried out a couple before settling on a great dentist that left my teeth feeling the way a potato probably feels after its skin has been removed, but then that guy just up and retired and sent me looking elsewhere.  My wife and I started going to Dr. Cioffari (in Altoona at that time but shortly thereafter moved to Duncansville), and we’ve really liked him ever since.  He’s relatively quick with his cleanings, and the staff there is nice and courteous.

So in January of this year, Dr. Cioffari decided to do X-rays—which were the first I had done since seeing him, and it had probably been three or maybe even four years since I’d had them done last.  The results were not good.  While my teeth, on the outside, looked all clean and healthy, in the tight spaces in between them I had nine cavities.  Nine.  NINE!  You see, I brush my teeth every morning.  I USUALLY (I use that word loosely) brush again either at night or during the evening hours after a meal.  But flossing?  Eh.  That was just overkill in my opinion.  But, apparently I was wrong about that one—a feat which seldom happens.  Because even though I was brushing with my Oral B super advanced alien technology automatic toothbrush, I wasn’t getting those bristles in there between my teeth.  That’s what flossing is for, duh, and of course my flossing routine was less common than full moons.  In reality I knew I needed to floss, but my hastiness/laziness with regards to my morning bathroom routine just didn’t include the critical step of flossing.

So aside from being scolded by my dentist, another valuable lesson was gained by this discovery.  Some things look all fine and dandy on the outside, but inside—where we can’t see or otherwise perceive—they may be close to rotten.  This isn’t a new lesson, of course.  We all know how shallow certain people with exceptionally good looks can be.  That apple we took to lunch may have a huge rotten chunk lurking underneath that skin, and while it’s always a little surprising (and disappointing and disgusting) when we bite into it, we know bad apples happen pretty often.  Should we be surprised?  Probably not.  And those flowers you see over there, the ones that resemble tulips?  Yeah, that’s an Autumn crocus, a plant that contains colchicine, which is an arsenic-like poison that can cause multiple organ failure within 24 to 72 hours after ingestion.  So don’t go picking that one.

My point here is not that nice pretty things may not be so nice and pretty on the inside.  We know that.  Or at least we say we do.  My point is that it’s important to not lose sight of that lesson.  Let’s be aware of everything we encounter, especially with regards to things that we perceive to be so great on the exterior.  Nothing and nobody is perfect, and that includes the people and things we revere and idolize.  In other words, we all know the lesson, but knowing it and learning from it can sometimes be miles apart.

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