Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Two down, three to go …

Have I mentioned how much I love my dentist?

It’s a strange relationship, really, placing such faith in someone who has the ability to inflict such indescribable pain.  I suppose faith is what all relationships are about, in one way or another, there’s always a chance the pain component will outweigh the happy bits.  But a person’s relationship with their dentist requires a leap of faith unlike any other.

Do I really have five cavities, as the dental hygenist suggested?  Is fluoride really the solution to these mysterious and sudden root caries?  Should I really just close my eyes and open my mouth and trust that whatever this person is doing is the best thing for me?

I arrived for my 5 o’clock appointment with a newly purchased bottle of Nezza Mouthwash and a smaller bottle of Rejuvenate Cell Therapy and asked my dentist what she thought.  Was it you who told me Tom’s was sold to Palmolive, she asked, as she found her reading glasses and proceeded to examine my new finds.   And then she thanked me for finding a natural mouth rinse to replace the corporate product, and smiled with a verbal “wow” as I showed her the long list of trace minerals contained in the little Rejuvenate bottle.  You can just massage this right onto your gums, she said, and then noticing the price … but it’s expensive!  I reminded her of my success in treating my dental abscesses on my own, avoiding the dreaded root canals.  Dentists are expensive too.  Yes, she agreed, they are.

If Tommy Douglas were alive today I think he’d agree that Canada’s crisis in health care could benefit from a complete overhaul in terms of how we perceive health, and sickness.  Currently, people are rewarded for being sick.  If you’re sick in Canada there are a fleet of doctors and hospitals and surgery opportunities available to you.  If you’re interested in preventative or complimentary medicine, like acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractors, yoga, or herbal remedies, you’re on your own.  And there’s a complete disconnect between dental health, and overall body health.  Canada’s health system does not include any coverage of dental expenses.

My dentist and I talked some more while we were waiting for the freezing to take effect.  I believe that my personal dental crisis is partly due to the significant lifetime changes my body is going through, but I also believe it’s connected to the decades I carried mercury in my body.  My dentist removed all that, using very expensive and careful equipment.  Imagine the schizophrenic situation I’m in, she said, and told me again about how the city required her to sign all kinds of documents promising to properly dispose of the mercury she takes out of peoples mouths, and meanwhile the college is still teaching dentists it’s okay to use amalgam fillings.  The city regularly checks up on her, she said, to make sure that the mercury isn’t going to leach into our soil and water.  Meanwhile, in the next office, amalgam is filling some poor sop’s cavities.  The only place you can legally dump mercury is in peoples’ mouths.  It doesn’t make sense.

Same deal with fluoride.  After the dental hygenist, while cleaning my teeth, insisted that I begin brushing with fluoride toothpaste, I went home and searched the ‘net.  There’s a wave of anti-fluoride sentiment out there, from various sources.  The only folks recommending are the official dental associations.  Why is that, I asked my dentist?  Probably because if they quit recommending it they’d be subjecting themselves to a class action lawsuit, she said.  In her office, you only get fluoride if you ask for it.  She carefully follows the procedures that the dental association insists upon, for example advising me to get a root canal.  But she understands and supports me when I resist.  This is what a good relationship is about, I guess, working the best we can within the parameters that contain us, while respecting the individual’s right to find their own way.   

This is the problem with capitalism.  We shouldn’t be forced into such limited options and we wouldn’t be if health care didn’t have a price attached to it.  Health ought to be something we’re all entitled to.  And not just emergency surgery or big pharma drugs, but real overall wholistic health.  Healthy food, healthy air and water and soil.  Healthy bodies, healthy teeth.  The ability to live in a world that honours and rewards those who promote such overall health.  But as long as there’s a price tag associated with it there’ll be institutions afraid to change, a bureaucratic government unable to rethink itself, insurance companies intent on securing profits and pleasing their investors rather than really helping the people who need it.

What is the stuff made of that you filled my teeth with, I asked my dentist as she laid the hot stones on my chakras and brought me a hot lavendar towel for my face.  It’s crystal, she said, ground down to the tiniest bits using nanotechnology, and then some scientific process I didn’t quite understand.  Essentially, this crystal stuff becomes a part of my tooth when the blue light is applied.  I honestly don’t know the health risks of this, but I know it’s not mercury, and I trust her.

I’ll be returning to my dentist to fix the other two small cavities soon, before they have a chance to grow and become real problems.  I want to have teeth to chew with in my elder years.  The big challenge is to wonder how much of this is connected to the mercury poisoning I agreed to, unwittingly, in my youth … without getting angry and bitter.   Growing old is one thing, being old and angry and bitter is something I’d rather avoid.