I‘m going to be spending way too much time in the dentist’s chair in the upcoming weeks. Last Monday, an upper molar that had been only mildly sore the day before decided it was time to get seriously worse, what with it being the day before a holiday and all. I found a dentist who took emergencies, who referred me to an specialist for a root canal on at least one tooth, possibly two. Trust me, that was not how I had been planning to celebrate the Fourth of July.
Things got worse when I got to the specialist’s office, because her exams showed that I did indeed need two root canals, and possibly three, since she could also see some decay under a crown on my bottom molar. Furthermore, I had three small cavities between my teeth that needed to be filled, and I needed a new night guard, as the old one was probably putting too much pressure on some of my teeth. She was both friendly and professional, but I still got the idea that she thought she was dealing with someone who had never heard of a toothbrush, much less actually used one.
But here’s the thing: aside from my unfortunate childhood habit of chewing on ice, I actually have good dental hygiene habits. I go to the dentist every six months, I brush my teeth at least four times a day and floss every night at the minimum. I’m actually sort of a clean freak (some would say that the words “sort of” need to be removed from that phrase) about everything, including my teeth. I also wear my night guard faithfully, even after I found my son’s dog hiding under the bed, happily chewing on it. (I used about a gallon of bleach cleaning it, but I kept using it.)
And I know many people who avoid the dentist like the plague and only use dental floss if they have a bit of popcorn stuck in their teeth and can’t find a tooth pick. My husband once went five years without a dental check up, and when he finally agreed to sit down in the dentist’s chair, all they found was one tiny cavity. The rest of his teeth were perfectly fine. It was not, no matter how you looked at it, the least bit fair.
Which is, of course, the real lesson behind this whole fiasco. Of course it isn’t fair that someone who tries really hard to take care of her teeth has a set that behave as if they were purchased from the bargain rack at the local discount store. But it isn’t fair when a person who has never smoked gets lung cancer, or a person who has worked hard their whole life loses their job just because the economy tanked, either.
We live in a world where bad stuff happens to good people, and good stuff sometimes happens to those who don’t begin to deserve it. It isn’t fair at all. But that’s life. It’s random and impossible to predict in so many ways. I can get in a snit about my situation and complain to whoever will listen (which I admit is often my go-to response), or I can just accept what’s happened and move on. Because I know that just because life can be unfair doesn’t mean it can’t also be good, more often than not.
I can’t always control what happens to me, whether good or bad. But I can control how I react to it, and I can choose to focus on the good. So I’ll put on my big-girl panties and get the dental work done, bearing in mind that it will be over eventually. And meanwhile, I’m going to remember to be very, very, thankful to whoever invented Novocaine.