I recently had a tooth pulled. Now I haven’t been the sort of person to admit such a thing. It makes me embarrassed. Old. Sad.
It was unexpected.
When I went in for my most recent dental check up, I was as shocked as my dentist to learn I had three cavities. While I have had lots of cavities when I was younger, I haven’t had any in recent years.
All three of these new ones were under old fillings or crowns. These teeth had cause problems in the past. The plan was to take off the old, take out the decay, and refill or recap.
The problem with the plan was the decay ran deeper than expected and my dentist feared it was only a matter of time, maybe just days, before the new, $1,500 crown, failed. He suggested we pull the tooth.
I have visited a dentist every six months for a check up my entire life. I have brushed twice a day my entire life. I have flossed every day since my early 20s, when a dentist told me if I did, I would keep my teeth. I thought I did everything right.
I feel betrayed. Even now writing these words, I feel the loss deeply.
As I’ve gone through the recovery process—unfortunately much slower than normal—I have been pondering a few life lessons. If, after all these years of doing everything right for my dental health, what if doing everything right in the rest of my life leads to similar disaster?
I worried for my students. Did this problem come from my diet? Am I leading them astray? (The short answer is “no”; I’ve since researched the issue thoroughly to be sure. Besides, my husband eats as I do and continues to have excellent check ups. In fact, it’s more support for eating a healthier diet because when these teeth got their first cavities, many, many years ago, my diet was not very good.)
After days of despair, I finally realized that I’ve always had the answer to my question, (what if I do everything right but it still leads to disaster?) just like Dorothy in Oz. The answer is, while the research indicates there is a lot we can do through diet to improve our health, but even if we’re 100 percent perfect in our choices, our lives are not in our own hands.
For some, years of unhealthy habits have already taken their toll. For others, genetic defects (only about 10 percent of the time) can be blamed, for yet others, accidents happen.
However, all of us can realize some improvement with a healthier lifestyle. For some it will be dramatic. For others less so, but no less meaningful. For myself, I have reversed pre-diabetes and improved my blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which has enabled me to a more energetic life every day.
I realized I can spend my time mourning my tooth and living in fear of what else could happen in my mouth—or other parts of my body—or I can trust that my life is in my loving God’s hands, including when it will end.
I choose to get out there and live it.