This morning I went in to my dentist for a routine cleaning. Every time I go in to have my gums probed and my teeth examined, I reflect on this relatively unsung hero of our happy existence.
Improperly treated, teeth can cause incredible pain, both chronic and acute. They rot, cause damage to the jaw, and fall out. The remaining teeth then shift, and get loose in their turn. Once you have few teeth, food is harder to eat, your diet suffers, and your overall health declines. Soon, you are old.
Enlightened dental hygiene combined with regular dentist visits prevent this.
This is incredibly boring, isn’t it? "Enlightened dental hygiene". Something you would expect from your most blowhard relative over turkey. How quickly the miraculous becomes mundane. Good dental care adds healthy and pain-free years to your life.
Interestingly, I can think of no fairy tale where someone wishes for a new set of teeth (I am no folklore scholar: does anyone know of one?). Of course, no one asks for lifelong resistance to infectious disease, escape from death in childbirth, or a smokeless chimney either. Were these things literally unimaginable? Most likely it’s just that a fairy tale requires some element of believability to be adequately comforting. One can imagine a bigger house, more food, or a nicer spouse. Decent teeth were far beyond the realm of possibility. It wasn't even something that would occur to anyone.
But so far from being unbelievable, these things are now routine. So, this Thanksgiving, in addition to giving thanks for all you have, give thanks for dentists. And vaccines, public health, and smokeless domestic heat as well, while you’re at it.