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The painful tooth

Nobody loves the thought of visiting their dentist any time, any day, especially when they’re having a toothache, which is why a visit to the clinic is the most courageous New Year’s resolution any resolute adult can make. Just think, the next 367 days without teeth to chew food and to smile at the world with?

My mother used to tell us, when we were kids, that the best time to go see the dentist was when our teeth were in perfect health. (Since then, I’ve learned that dental torture begins with mental torture.) Parents today are luckier, their children’s dentists are arrayed with a panoply of instruments and equipment designed to inflict less, little, or no pain.

On my last pre-Christmas visit to Dr. Bobby Guison – he used to travel on a motorcycle to his clinic in what was once a container van, until the rate of motorcycle mishaps doubled – I asked for an update on pain management from a dentist’s point of view. Off the top of his head, he said, “Needle-less injections!”

Not everything modern is best, however. On patients with sensitive teeth, for example, prophylaxis or cleaning, removing stains, especially after the holiday feasting, is best done the old-fashioned way, no need for the newfangled tools that spray air, water, or hi-tech magic into an open mouth. “Dentistry is both art and science,” said Dr. Guison, who recommends twice-yearly cleaning. (That’s his chance to discover the truth about a patient’s teeth, if any need to be worked on.)

Whether he employs art or aesthetics, and science or technology, a dentist earns his patient’s loyalty with his lightness of touch and gentleness of manner – no sadist should be allowed to practice dentistry anywhere in the world! In the case of children, their loyalty can stretch to a lifetime.

A lifetime? What’s the lifespan of a set of human teeth when people are now living beyond their century mark? Dr. Guison was on a dental mission in Antique when a 99-year-old man approached him for an extraction. “His teeth were all there but he needed to get rid of one, just one, the one that hurt,” he recalled. That’s the painful truth about an aching tooth: you need only one to wish you weren’t born human. (Jullie Y. Daza)

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