This question became the focus of my thoughts as I drove to my dentist’s office with a “broken tooth”.
I am so aware of being amazingly blessed with physical health. My history allows me to answer, “No” to almost every health survey that asks, “have you ever had?”
But, if I were to be asked if I have ever had a problem with my teeth, I would need several pages to tell the nightmare stories. These experiences have been so traumatic that I ask the dentist for Novocain before I submit to an x-ray.
I know that modern dentistry is relatively pain free. Yet, the memories of childhood experiences dominate my expectations. All the dentist needs to do is ask me to open my mouth and my body tenses. The sounds, smells, reclining posture, overhead light and a tray of sharp instruments translate into a guarantee of pain.
When we were kids, our dentist practiced in a town twenty miles from our farm. Because this dentist knew that traveling this distance was a challenge he accommodated my parents by doing all the work at one time. Because I had several cavities, I would be in the chair for hours.
Trust was also an issue. I remember my dad telling me that when the dentist filled one tooth he drilled a hole in the one next to it so he would have work to do next year.
Now, in my seventh decade of life, I have a nine-tooth bridge, a three-tooth bridge and several crowns.
My granddaughter called me last night with such excitement that I needed her to repeat what she was saying. I finally understood that she had been just standing in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, when her front tooth just came out in her hand. I celebrated with her.
As I think about her joy, I wonder why I live with such dread of my teeth just coming out into my hand?
Does it really matter if I outlive my teeth?
Maybe it is more important that I will not outlive my faith through aging eyes.