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Big Teeth in Front, Little Teeth in Back

While biting into an avocado toast recently, I chipped a tooth. Actually, I chipped a veneer that covered a compromised tooth. I couldn’t dial my dentist fast enough! After a quick temporary fix, I visited my original dentist for a deep cleaning and repair work. I hadn’t been to this particular dentist in a while and noticed a few new faces in the room. One of them was the hygienist, who was assigned to do a deep dive into my mouth. Let’s call him Roger. Somehow, Roger also managed to floss my mind a little.

Roger had a monotone demeanor in more ways than one. He spoke the entire time. And each time that he needled me with Novocaine, Roger’s stories got wilder. Maybe his plan was to distract me. Roger talked about the many different individuals, whose teeth he helped heal: special needs adults, prisoners, musicians, actors and the elderly with the label DNR (do not resuscitate). Roger buttoned up his observations, a couple of times, by stating: At the end of the day, we’re all the same – big teeth in the front, little teeth in the back.

No one’s perspective has intrigued me as much as Roger’s. Curious, I opened my eyes a few times, trying to size him up. But his face covering only exposed his eyes. And I noticed some creases on his neck. By contrast, Roger could see my whole face and the most humiliating part of me, my mouth…my embarrassing chipped tooth! Roger had no problem sizing me up, “I can’t read minds, but I can read faces. What I see is that the dentist is not your thing, and you’re a busy woman.” I guess that means, lady you don’t make time for your teeth. Ugh…but I floss ALL the time. And you know…Covid.

Roger also said a couple of things that evoked chuckles and groans, or whatever sound I could muster. In a wondering-type voice, Roger said, “People leave here faster than they come in, I don’t know why? Sometimes people get mad or annoyed with me, because of their mouths. I tell them, why are you mad at me? I don’t even know you. It’s your mouth. You’re the one who’s done that.”

I agree with Roger’s precise observation about our teeth. From his vantage point, Roger’s lenses don’t get fogged up with people’s titles, bank accounts, trophies, salaries, estates, bells and whistles. Roger sees the rawness of all humans. It’s as if he gets to see our skeletons. From that perspective, I’m sure the core of us seems pretty similar.

So, here are several lessons (gifts) I took from my last dental visit:

- Don’t think others are better than you; and don’t think yourself better than others.

- Hold yourself accountable for the way you treat your body, mind and teeth.

- Visit Roger more often.

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Who knew avocado toast could be so dangerous!? Or that a trip to the dentist office could envoke thoughts of reflection, connection, and humility? I sometimes struggle with healthy accountability (I’m a little hard on myself) but will try to cherish the simple wins in life – not finding any cavities at my next dentist appointment surely qualifies. And lastly, we all have a Roger in our lives, and I’ll ascribe more value to my relationship with him.

Rosa Valle-Lopez
Rosa Valle-Lopez
Apr 20, 2021
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Thank you Amar. I always appreciate your thoughtful and eloquent feedback. You’re easily becoming one of my favorite readers. And yes, that turned out to be a pretty expensive avocado toast. Roger is cooler than he knows.

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