“I don’t want them to pull my tooth out!” complained my daughter, and rightfully so, from her point of view.
Me? All I could think was, but you are so lucky.
Standing there at the dentist’s office, my perspective was completely different than my child’s. He was showing me her X-rays on a computer screen, the X-rays that have enabled him to diagnose an issue that people in other parts of the world and in the past would not have even known about. And we discussed possible braces in 2012, to make those teeth not just healthy but also beautiful.
Looking around that dental office, immaculate, modern, and kid-friendly with TV screens on the ceiling, I thought to myself, WOW. We are so, so lucky. Allowing nature to take its course when it comes to our teeth is a disaster for most of us. Unless blessed with amazing genes, the entire system – mouth, teeth, gums, is so fragile, so vulnerable to issues and to disease. My late grandfather had lost all his teeth before he turned sixty. And he was not alone. Throughout history, and today too in many parts of the world, people suffer so much because of things that we take for granted, and teeth are just an example of course.
How lucky we are to be armed with all this amazing knowledge about how we need to take care of our bodies, with the tools to implement that knowledge, and – in many cases though admittedly not all – with the financial means to pay for these treatments.
I examined my daughter’s worried face, and I wondered if I could make her see that the minor discomfort we endure as we take care of our bodies is so worth it, is a blessing rather than a curse. Going to routine preventative exams, teeth cleanings, minor treatments and surgeries, even going through the trouble of eating the right foods (when we would rather eat junk), exercising (when we would rather watch TV), and the daily maintenance of flossing and tooth brushing and washing. None of these can be taken for granted in other parts of the world.
And as we undergo the medical treatments necessary to keep us healthy, doctors use anesthesia to make sure we don’t suffer unnecessary pain; they scrub their hands and sterilize everything to protect us from infection; and if something does go wrong, we can often fix it with antibiotics and with other medicines.
As I comforted my crying daughter, I tried to explain all of this to her, even though I suspect she’s too young to understand. At age 11, she has every right to be upset about the possibility of her tooth being pulled out! But later, when she’s older, I hope she’ll realize how lucky she is. I hope she’ll be grateful – yes, even for those minor discomforts that keep her, that keep us, so healthy and strong.
If you’re in the US, I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving. May we all continue to be so amazingly lucky.