Last Thursday afternoon, I went to the dentist for a routine checkup. Regina, the hygienist with gentle hands and a kind demeanor, tried to prepare me. But nothing could stave off the dread when Dr. Gina—after a mere glance at my Xrays—spoke these words:
“No, you can’t wait until July. I need to see you next week. How’s Monday morning?”
She’d been cautiously following the progress of my cracked fillings, waiting until just the right moment to take action. If we could get crowns on those teeth before the decay advanced too much, I could avoid root canal. After nearly a decade of building a relationship with her, I trust my dentist’s judgment. And I’m not especially interested in getting to know the endodontist.
As I waited to check out, I drew a mental chart to help me evaluate the situation:
|need 2 crowns||have healthy gums|
|will need 3rd within a year||will likely avoid root canal|
|2 hr follow-up appointment||competent dentist|
|Passover with temporary teeth||Dental insurance pays 80%|
I felt frustration build as I reviewed the column on the left. Why bother to keep my mouth and gums healthy if I’m just going to need crowns on all my molars?! Then I forced myself to look to the right and focus on the positive. I realized that I’ve been chewing on the right side of my mouth for three months—knowing full well that this verdict was coming—and I remembered this teaching of the ancient rabbis:
“One is obligated to bless for the bad just as he would bless for the good…whatever measure God metes out to you, thank Him exceedingly.” (Mishnah Berakhot 9:5)
Yes, I was disappointed to learn that, despite considerable routine maintenance, I still needed to spend at least another 2 hours in the dentist’s chair. But I was awash in gratitude that I have reasonably healthy gums and that the out-of-pocket expense would be reasonably low.
As the receptionist confirmed my appointment for Monday morning, I smiled broadly and added one more item to my chart. Same item, both columns: my rebellious spirit.
I figured that if I was getting new teeth anyway I might as well indulge over the weekend. So I stopped at Target to buy a pack of gum—the sticky, NOT sugar-free stuff that I never chew. I knew I could finish it over the weekend and erase the evidence by Monday morning, when I would thank God exceedingly.