The other day at 8 a.m., I am in the chair at the dentist’s. I schedule my dental/medical stuff early in the morning because I saw on a Public Television show once that you feel pain less in the morning, which makes sense, because if you sleep at night and then get up in the morning, your body is sort of still waking up, and that includes pain-sensing, so if you get to the potentially painful part of your Business Day quick enough after getting out of bed, you can at least delude yourself into thinking it could be worse.
My Dental Hygienist—who, with other members of the dentistry I frequent, has returned from a gathering of the American Dental Association in Hawaii—is talking to me. She is telling me about a profound philosophical change in the self-perception of Dentistry, with many now seeing their practices as part of a larger holistic concern enhancing health and extending the quality and very lifespan of human beings. Enlightened dentistry!
I have heard all sorts of suggestions for services and treatments available to me at the dentist’s, and like a sport, I have gone in for a few of those extra dental-treatment rinses performed on me in the chair, but not recently. I was persuaded to—and have been very happy with—minor resurfacing and building up/grinding down of tooth surfaces for bite realignment, with the added bonus of cosmetic improvement, and I have, infrequently, taken a few tonics and minor appliances home in my regular trick-or-treat bag of minor merch (and an apple), so even in my early morning state of less-than full awareness, I sense there will be some sort of opportunity to purchase something today.
I suffer from bruxism, which means while I am asleep I tend to clench my jaw so tight that my teeth grind together, and to keep me from wearing down my choppers, I wear a mouthguard like I’m a hockey player or something, except I’m not engaged in strenuous physical activity at a professional level, although of course if sleeping was a sanctioned sporting event, I would have realistic aspirations to be a pro, or at least work in the pro shop at the sleeping range, where I could give pointers and help people work on their form. “Yeah, bruxism kept me outta the bigs, but let’s talk about your pillow placement here.”
I tell my dental professional that it seems like maybe the bruxism is getting more pronounced, or I’m just feeling it more, something is different, and my dental hygienist tells me there must be a reason, there must be some sort of stress that I am dealing with, but no, I say, there isn’t any more stress than normal, I am a happy individual in a fulfilling, stable relationship, and I enjoy my work, so I am not seeing my way though this diagnosis, and then we get on the subject of how things are connected; heart attack – diabetes – Alzheimers, all piled together with DENTAL HYGIENE as the cherry on the ice cream sundae of preventive medicine.
My dental hygienist used their mom as an example, 93 years old and went out with dementia the last two years. I’m not gonna argue with somebody who misses their mom and then vows to live to be 100, I get it, but I also get how my mom checked out, at 87, and fast, a heart attack, but it’s not like I want to have a heart attack, you know?
There is certainly an undercurrent of commerce at my dentist’s, but it’s always low-key. I see there are books about the health connections out on the counter, for sale at what to me seems like a nominal price, 15 bucks a pop, but I can always use the public library for books I’m only gonna read once, so I recorded their covers for future reference. The best title is The Longevity Paradox, How to Die Young at a Ripe Old Age. I’m not beyond entertaining some Unified Field Theory of health that will keep me alive in an active and satisfying state!
Eventually my dental hygienist is telling me all about the certain types of bacteria that reside around my gums and teeth and reports of the testing where the researchers have found those bacteria in the thickened walls of the carotid arteries of potential heart-attack people, a separate issue from cholesterol plaque buildup in my arteries, not to mention plaque on my teeth, but also that aforementioned evil type bacteria can end up in the human brain, dot dot dot: Alzheimer’s, and hey, diagnosis achieved; now I am officially stressed out, it all connected.