Today I took a step toward personal responsibility and went to my dentist appointment. It’s not that I hate dentists or fear The Chair, but it’s been far too easy these past (ten) years to avoid making the call. I could blame the lack of dental insurance, but honestly, I was raised without such privilege, so I don’t feel that’s an honest factor (though dishing out large sums of money to hear that scraping sound was never high on my priority list). 

I ashamedly told the nice dentist of my ventures away from the dental world, however, he took to it kindly and mentioned that I was not alone in my period of living the prodigal. He said, “you just fell into the dental abyss of young adulthood.” 
So, apparently pastors and dentists can commiserate their vocational struggles with the similarities of their situations. The elderly pay the bills and you must meet their needs, while the young scamper away, unaware of their folly, no matter how many times they’re warned that their youthfulness doesn’t make them invincible. Then they return – “because of the kids” – with a mess to clean up, asking for an easy (and cheap) fix.  
And why do we become such wayward souls during our 20s? I think both pastors and dentists probably come across types who: 
  • feel like they do enough without having someone else invade their space 
  • don’t trust “the establishment” and figure they’re just out to get money
  • aren’t afraid of making an appearance, but rather they simply don’t make it a priority and thus never darken the door (*yours truly)
  • (please insert your own reasons for avoiding either establishment in your comments below.)
I sat in the chair for 2.5 hours with a (not-literally) God-sized hole in my tooth that only the dentist could fill. If I had neglected any longer, chances are I would have lost the tooth all together. There was not much exterior damage, just a shell of weak enamel chomping around, silently dying inside. 
The dentist did what he could to numb it before going to work. But all the excavating and cleaning and repairing -well, it irritates a situation which, though uncomfortable, is familiar. Now I have parts of my jaw and gums all flared up, who I originally thought were quite happy. It turns out that death growing in the hollows affects more than you realize. The overall condition of your oral health integrates with each individual tooth, cavity and crevice. What do you know, we’re holistic beings, not a group of compartments.    
It took more work to get me fixed up than the dentist anticipated. The depths of decay in my poor molar reached beyond expectation. Throughout the process he was kind and patient and wished beyond wishes that it wasn’t my “reintroduction” to dentistry. The road could be far easier with a cleaning or perhaps a filling on the upper gum. Better yet, a visit 5 years ago when we were breeding a slight crack would be optimal.  But no. I returned in full-fledged crisis mode, pleading for more Novocaine. Just make it all go away
I was released, numb, with follow-up appointments. It turns out that messes can’t be easily covered up, but rather need rebuilt. Most things in life don’t come with a one-dose fix. Our teeth – our souls – require constant care. And though I was a good brusher and even fit in a good frequent flossing, sometimes the basics don’t cut it. We need eyes other than our own, eyes trained to see below the surface, to take a look and guide us back to health. 
    
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