Wednesday, July 13, 2011


"Dentists tell you not to pick at your teeth with any sharp, metal objects. Then you sit in their chair... and the first thing they pick up is a sharp, metal hook." - Bill Cosby

I once heard a statistic that among professions, the highest suicide rate was with those who are dentists. Now, I have no idea how true that is - but I suppose it makes some sense when you think about it. How many other professions do people say they have to go to an appointment for with such audible groans, heavy complaints, and verbal hatred? There are very few; even a major mechanical issue with your car or an emergency doctor's visit produces an eye roll or heavy sigh at worst with most people.

Me? There are definitely places I'd rather be than in the dentist's chair. At least until something happened to my perspective and thinking yesterday.

When I went to my intake appointment at our new dentist, my stomach sank when she told me that I had 13 surfaces that needed to be filled or watched. My last dentist had already done 9, and so these were either repeat offenders or new ones. I'm a known case of needing either high-dosage novocaine or multiple shots of the stuff, so not only would the drilling need to commence but so would the hours of facial numbness.


After my first round of fillings I fought the urge to put off making the second appointment for the next round. I was a good girl and went ahead to make it. Besides, there was a spot in between two teeth that was bothering me when I flossed that my dentist promised would be involved in the next round of fillings.

A few weeks passed, and the time came for me to head in for round two of the drill and fill. I left work at 3:45 and for the first time in a while didn't feel anywhere near as nervous as I had in the past. When I arrived at the dentist and the secretary told me that my secondary insurance (through Steve's work) had covered the balance of my last round of fillings, my nervousness completely dissipated. As I sat in the waiting room staring at the news before it was my turn in the chair, I pondered on where that well-known nervousness had gone.

As I watched on the news about a car fire that happened on my route home not long after I had driven by (which would have made me late for my appointment), God spoke to my heart: "I took it. You don't need that nervousness, you are blessed with this opportunity."

Now... I know what you're thinking. Blessed with the opportunity to go to the dentist and get drills and needles stuck into my face? Yeah, right.

But just think about this for a moment: there are people all over the world who have no means to prevent cavities, gingivitis, or other oral ailments. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, tongue scrapers are all foreign objects to hundreds of thousands of people in developing countries. When their teeth inevitably begin to decay there aren't any means of treatment readily accessible to them which means that either the teeth they have will rot and fall out of their head OR they could develop an infection that if it spread or went untreated could become lethal.

Can you imagine getting a simple cavity that could kill you?

Our students just got back on Saturday from a 6-day missions trip to Nassau, Bahamas where they served alongside 35-ish other students & leaders from other area churches to help fix-up an HIV/AIDS residential camp. While they were able to use the gifts of their health, strength, resources, and abilities to help rebuild this camp for the residents, they received a wonderful gift from God of being able to see what true, unabashed faith in Him really looks like. One of our leaders and a dear friend of mine Elyse who went on the trip has been posting a daily journal of their experience, and she put it this way:

All of the residents have a unbreakable faith and a spiritual wealth amidst their conditions, maybe even because of their conditions. And I fear I will never know it. The worst part is, I wouldn’t trade what I have for what they have, and it makes me feel like I am missing the mark. In many ways they have a richness that I will never know.

Let me just tell you that even though I did not go on the trip and very likely was not even close to affected by the trip as the way those who DID go were, I can tell you that hearing the stories of how people were moved by God's work there has been a forceful perspective and great inspiration for me over the last few days. This dental business has been just one of those ways that I've seen this take shape.

I am a woman in a country where I can basically do and be whatever I want to do and be. I live in a part of the world where I can work hard, draw a paycheck, receive access to incredible medical care AND insurance where I actually pay for very little of it. I can have access to food whenever I want it - and oh, by the way, I pay to belong to a part of a farm where someone else does all the work and I reap the benefits. I don't need to walk for miles to get water that I only HOPE is clean - I merely have to turn on my faucet.

Forget what my paycheck says - I am ridiculously blessed just by virtue of being an American citizen with all the opportunity that comes along with that.

Blessings are gifts from God because He loves us and none of the resources that I have are mine because I deserve them: they are mine because they are a gift. Dental Insurance is a GIFT. Access to clean dental care to prevent rot & infection is a GIFT. Everything that God has provided me with is a gift - if I don't use it with a joyful heart and make the best of it... that probably breaks his heart knowing that there are other children of His who do not have what I have who would not take any of it for granted.

And so, yesterday as the numbness wore off in my face and I began to feel a dull ache in the three back teeth where I had been drilled, filled, and sent on my way - my heart became chock-full of gratefulness. For God has blessed me with more than I ever could have asked for and definitely more than I can ever possibly need... and for some reason, He decided that a gentle reminder about going to the dentist was going to be how He reminded me of this.


Lisa said...

I actually don't mind the dentist-in fact, the only part I don't like about going to see him is the gritty cherry tasting toothpaste he uses.

A great post-great reminder. :)

Vernell Leider said...

Yep. The pain you feel during and after an appointment with the dentist feels so uncomfortable, but it's a blessing in disguise. We have the benefit of dentists who can help fix our broken teeth, that can benefit the body in very definite ways. It's very fortunate for us to have such a luxury and blessing.