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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Three Cheers for Dentists!

I had dental work done recently. Not just a cleaning, but actual “work,” which is a euphemism for drilling! But I don’t want to bore you with the details of my last visit to the dentist. Instead, I want to celebrate dentists today. For I believe they are often the unsung heroes in the field of medicine.

I wanted to write about dentists because, in a way, I feel sorry for them. Nobody wants to go and see them. Whoever says, “Yippee! I get to go to the dentist today!” Many of us have to be dragged there. Or we come up with creative excuses for not making that dental appointment: “Nothing hurts. I’ll wait until something hurts.” Or “My dog’s birthday is coming up. I need time to plan the party.” Or, the old standby, “I’m too busy. I’ll wait until I’m not so busy.”

The only time we want to see a dentist is if we’re in serious pain. Then we can’t wait to get to the dentist, because we know dentists can provide almost instant relief. In fact, that’s one reason my dentist said he decided to go into dentistry and not into general medicine. “As a dentist I can help people much more quickly than if I were a doctor,” he said.

I admire dentists. They work in such a small space, the human mouth. And on such a small thing: a human tooth. They have to learn a wide variety of skills too. They have to know how to do examinations, diagnoses, drilling, filling, crowns, bridges, and extractions. While they’ve got you in their chair, dentists also check out your mouth, jaw, and neck for potential problems such as growths.

I met a nun once who was a dentist. She became a nun first and a dentist afterwards. She spent her life serving primarily the homeless in a large city. My dentist is also altruistic. He regularly volunteers his expertise in a so-called “developing country.” What a generous thing to do! This year he’s taking his oldest daughter with him. What a great idea!

I did a little reading on dentistry and was surprised to learn that dentistry is one of the oldest of the medical professions, dating back to 7,500 BC. The Egyptians (we think) were the first to make replacement teeth—forerunners of modern dentures and crowns. And there is evidence that teeth were being drilled as far back as 9,000 years ago! And the earliest known filling was found in Slovenia and dates back 6,500 years! It was made of beeswax.

Here are a few other facts about teeth and dentistry that I found interesting:

* Dentistry became a profession in the 19th Century. Prior to that, dental problems were treated by barbers and general physicians—and even blacksmiths.

* Tooth decay was low in pre-agricultural times. But starting 10,000 years ago, the growth in agriculture corresponded with the growth in tooth decay.

* The average American spends 38.5 days brushing their teeth over their lifetime.

* Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body.

* If you don’t floss, you miss 40% of your tooth surface.

* If you drink three or more cans of soda a day, you will have 65% more tooth decay.

* The Blue Whale, the largest mammal on earth, eats only shrimp because it has no teeth.

* A snail’s mouth, which is no larger than the head of a pin, can have 20,000 teeth! (That is not a typo!)

* In 1950, the Tooth Fairy paid an average of 25 cents per tooth. In 1988, $1.00. The going rate now is $2.00.

* George Washington never had wooden teeth as many of us were taught. His dentures were made of gold, hippopotamus tusk, elephant ivory, and human teeth.

* And finally, the average American woman smiles 62 times a day; the average American man, 8 times. (What gives here? Any theories?)

Today let’s give thanks for our teeth and all they do for us. And let’s thank God for dentists, oral surgeons, dental hygienists, and all who work in our mouths to keep them healthy—and to keep us smiling!

I couldn’t find a religious song on dentistry (although I found some cute children’s songs about brushing your teeth! One was even by Bruno Mars when he appeared on “Sesame Street.”). So I chose a song on healing. This song is called “Healer” and it’s by Kari Jobe.

Would you care to share any thoughts on dentists or anything else in this reflection? 


18 Responses

  1. Sister Melannie,
    You are surely a creative writer. I would never have thought of writing about dentists. Great topic. I surely appreciate my dentist. I don’t want to lose my teeth.
    Have a good Monday.
    Marietta Wethington, OSU

  2. The man’s frown is a sign of thinking – what is she smiling about now and what devious i.e. what is on the “honey-do” list of ideas going on in her mind!

  3. Because I tend to put off going to the dentist ;( my dentist confessed to me that dentists have the highest number of suicides in the medical profession, because nobody likes them. Because I really do like my dentist, I decided to stop skipping appt and start praying for him, especially on the days of my appts.
    Enjoyed your thoughts
    Bless you❤️

  4. I have to say that I love my dentist! He’s a warm and caring, competent professional who makes a visit to the dentist office actually pleasurable. His office is like an art gallery and the waiting area like a comfortable living room. He is very kind to his patients, even the grumpy ones. Love that you did this piece on dentists. Can’t wait to send it to him.

  5. I love my dentist! I never dread seeing the dentist or the hygienist . I always feel so clean after a visit and almost dread eating, almost. : ) From an early age I learned to appreciate how important good dental health is. I always said about flossing, ” just like learning to use your seat belt “, an important habit to develop. Interesting thoughts, on how dentists are not appreciated. Thanks Sister Melannie!

  6. Sr. Melannie:

    I love my dentist. He is one of the greatest! Trust him 100% and am always willing to listen to his “words of wisdom” for the mouth!
    Thank you for you wonderful article.

  7. Thank you Sister Melanie for the blessings. I am a dental hygienist and have been for 36 years. I happen to be reading today’s blog during my lunch hour at the dental office. You are right it is rare that people look
    forward to a trip to the dentist. I really enjoyed the facts presented and the appreciation. Thank you so much. Blessings to you

    Gwen Schwab

  8. Hi Sister Melanie,
    I do look forward to going to the dentist! However, I must explain that my dentist is my daughter-in-law who I love very much and am blessed to have a great relationship with her.
    Thank you for sharing your talented way of making us think and appreciate life in all of its facets.

  9. I shouldn’t worry too much about isolating dentists. There is no such thing as a poor dentist. In the U.K. they are paid disproportionately to their skills and, like doctors, are almost immune from litigation. And Private Dental costs preclude the ordinary people from anything other than basic care and poor quality fittings. They may, indeed, be deeply compassionate but I seldom have heard of what I think you call ‘pro bono’ work.

  10. Personally, I love going to the dentist. Where else can you recline in a nice chair for a half hour or so, have someone else do all the work to make sure your teeth are healthy, and then walk out feeling great! I wish I could go more often. 🙂

  11. I am impressed by the availability that typifies dentists. It is so rare in today’s world that anyone gives you their phone number and invites you to call 24/7 if the pain gets worse. But my dentist does. What a gift.

  12. Hi Sister Melannie,

    I’m with Michelle. I, too, don’t mind the dentist. I sometimes fall asleep in the chair! Of course, I’m sure the dentist doesn’t mind me, either, as my teeth have been a rich source of income! My wife (who’s never had a cavity!) once described dentistry as one of the few professions trying to put itself out of business.

  13. I have a wonderful dentist, Dr. Robert Prijatel. He always fits you in if you are experiencing any pain. He is very gentle, professional, and always gets the job done! He also talks to you about interesting topics. His staff is very nice as well.

  14. Love that you wrote about dentists. But the healing song touched me deeply especially as I feel so poorly at the moment

  15. Thanks so much for your thoughts about dentists. I too kinda of hate going but to tell you the truth the ones I’ve had over my 82 years have been great. At 21 my dentist recommended removing my wisdom teeth. Thank goodness I did. My other teeth were never crowded or uneven like some family and friends. My dentist is getting a copy of your piece. Thanks so much.

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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