I have a cavity. It’s not technically diagnosed yet, though I’ve moved from the glory of denial to painful disobedience when it comes to calling the dentist. Thankfully, my cousin’s mom is a dental hygienist and she mentioned that when in the early stages, regular flossing can help reverse a cavity.
“Early stages” can encompass several months, right?
So I’ve been a flossing machine. Confession: This is not simply prevention. It’s pain relief. At this point, any time I consume something of a stringy nature, it becomes lodged between those blessed molars. If I can’t get my hands on minty string, throbbing begins within the hour. In my mind I can see my teeth separating the way my sister’s did when the orthodontist put a contraption in the roof of her mouth.
All this to say, I’ve spent time in front of the bathroom mirror. And, subsequently, cleaning it.
The upside? The rest of my teeth brag about their top-notch condition. They haven’t received this much attention since January 2011 when it made the list
. (Let it be said I have overall good dental hygiene and have, to date, one other cavity. But I don’t come from a family of flossers).
The cavity captures all of my dental attention and worry. I even wake thinking about it (if it’s throbbing in the middle of the night). I hate the way it makes me feel, both because it hurts and because I feel like a dental failure due to its existence.
But the rest of my teeth benefit.
They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But maybe the squeaky wheel gets the grease out of the garage. If it’s anything like my teeth, the problem child gets first dibs, but everyone reaps rewards.
It’s exhausting, always trying to “be better.” To fix large holes in your enamel. To meet higher expectations. To offer exceptional customer service. To proofread all emails. To play at the top of your game, all 4 quarters. And sometimes it feels defeating when your best efforts still land you a phone call to a paid professional for a fix.
Perhaps instead of lamenting our defeat, we should appreciate the improvement for the whole. Allow the holes we’ve become aware of to prompt improved habits. Dealing with sin often seems to me a character flaw improvement program, which misses the point. But instead, it should lead us to holiness throughout our whole life. In my quest to become more generous with my material world, I can allow those efforts to teach me what it means to have a generous spirit, to think of others first and consider them before myself.
Starting my morning, I can choose to see and feel the large gaping hole. By all means, don’t ignore it (especially if it can be flossed away!). But such occasions aren’t simply defeats. They’re windows, allowing you to look into ways we can live better. Don’t spend all day by the window, but make sure you take a glance each morning. Or, after each meal as you floss.