“Good night boy… don’t forget to brush your teeth”. How I miss saying this to my son every night. I hope this is my gift to him and something he will remember me for as his teeth mature. I say this because of the many visits I have had to make to the dentist. With nobody else to blame, I have conveniently decided that my growing-up years must have been filled with sweets and questionable dental hygiene, and hence my teeth are now filled with cavities. Parents get the blame one way or another, so son if you are listening, I was your tooth fairy. I made it my mission to make sure you don’t make the dental mistakes I made.
Losing a tooth is like losing an old friend. Someone who has been with me since childhood. Who knows everything that has happened in my life and has stuck by me all these years is suddenly gone. Extracted from my life and I am in pain. I know it has been building up for a while. But when it finally happens and the tooth is gone, there is a gaping hole that takes some getting used to.
Like a relationship in distress, the signs are the same. First, there was a cavity, which I ignored for a while. Them when the pain became too much I got a filling done. But the rot had already set in. The tooth has become brittle. Pieces started breaking off and a fracture developed. Relationships are the same. They need to be nurtured and looked after daily. Neglect and abuse or misuse will in the long run lead to irreparable damage.
If I had taken better care at the right time maybe it could have been saved. My dentist recommended a root canal but I said “maybe later, I’m too busy now.” Which was true in a way, plus I did not want the pain of that procedure. If I had done what needed to be done, maybe today I would still have that tooth. But instead, there is a gaping hole. There is also a lesson learnt. Not one but a few.
The glass half full version of this turn of events (or should I say this twist and pull) is that the extraction process has also led to some much-needed space being created. My dentist has been recommending removing my wisdom teeth for years – saying that my mouth needed the space else there would be “impacted” teeth. The old saying that until you let something go you cannot make space for the new to enter is true.
Making space for the new requires some painful clearing away of the old. A willingness to say goodbye and make sure that there is closure. It takes a bit of care and time to ensure the healing process is complete. I had to change my diet. No hot liquids. No spicy food. No strenuous exercise for a while. Allow the healing to happen. I tried rather stupidly to pretend that all was okay and went back to my old routine too soon, only to find that I could not. I had aches and pains, got a fever, and got a reminder that letting go of the old takes time and patience.
Two important lessons from my tooth fairy. Holding on and letting go. There is merit and virtue in both.
Holding on. Take good care of things that matter. They need daily care and attention. Good habits or rituals are the stuff that a good life is built on. There will be wear and tear. There will be difficult black spots to deal with. With the right intention, attention and support some teeth can be made to last a lifetime. Make every effort to look after those teeth that serve you well. Food for thought indeed. Without those teeth, there would be no food at all. And a smile would not be the same without those good friends for company.
Letting go. Life is not perfect. There will be slip-ups and accidents. An X-ray can reveal what is not otherwise visible. Doing some serious introspection about who and what serves us well is worth it. When to fight and when to take flight? The fracture may be deep and very close to a nerve. Not addressing the problem could cause a much larger impact. Sometimes when the rot has set in and the tooth is causing deep pain then it’s better to get to the root of the problem and deal with it. Sometimes a root canal can save the tooth. It will not be the same again but it will still be there. Sometimes you just need to pull it out and push on joyfully with the journey that is life. There is some truth or should I say ‘trooth’ in my dental adventures and the secrets that my tooth fairy revealed. Make space for the new.
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