NEED HELP? (at the dentist part 3)

An update: Last week’s dental check-up went PERFECTLY – no cavities, no tartar, no yelling (see Yelled At)

my hard work paid off.

As I return to my “at the dentist” series, I share the story of 4 little words overheard in the waiting room.  A while back, a friend of mine was dealing with a painful foot problem that necessitated her wearing a walking boot.  Even walking was difficult during that lengthy time, and she was unable to drive.  It was one of those times when problems seem to compound, and she also needed to see the dentist. As she explained her situation, I learned that we go to the same dentist and that I was available on the morning of her appointment to help her out.  I’m not sure whether she asked me to do it or I offered, but a plan was made for me to pick her up at home, take her to the office and come back for her when she was done.  We built in plenty of time since the cumbersome boot would slow her down.

She thanked me over and over for the help, while apologizing for needing it. When we had made our way into the building and up to the office window, I stood next to my friend as she explained to the  receptionist that she had to have me drive her because of an injury that put her in a boot and kept her from getting there on her own. She was understandably frustrated with the ongoing pain and inconvenience of her situation.

I can still see the kindness in the woman’s face and hear the compassion in her response, “Everybody needs help sometime.” Caring and true words.

For some of us, though, “everybody” means “everybody but me.” I know people who serve others with seemingly endless energy, who recognize and meet the needs they see, but are hesitant, even resistant, to ask for or accept help. I’ve witnessed this while volunteering in our church’s Meal Train program.  Last winter, my husband and I were able to take a simple meal to an elderly couple from our church while they were home-bound with a health issue.  The wife had been reluctant to receive meals, but now admitted that the help was needed and appreciated while she cared for her husband.  This saintly lady has labored for the hungry and disadvantaged of our community for many years. I first came to know her when I began taking a turn working in our local Food Pantry, and was impressed with her strength and energy.  Last winter was her “sometime”.

Our Food Pantry is a combined effort of area churches that serves people who meet residence and income qualifications – and who admit that they need help. I’ve seen first-time visitors to the Pantry tentatively enter and get in line and heard how the lovely woman who collects their information and helps them make out their food request makes them feel welcome and at ease.  She, too, expresses that sometimes we need a little help.

Asking for help isn’t easy for many of us.  I suspect that few people ask our church for meals during a difficult situation, so it is the church family’s job to notice the need and contact our Caring Cooks coordinators about a Meal Train. Sometimes the coordinators make and deliver the food themselves rather than asking us volunteers for help!

I’m not always quick to recognize and meet other people’s needs.  It’s partially because I feel inadequate or nervous about what might be required.  Taking a friend to see my dentist whose office is in my neighborhood was easy, but if someone needed a ride to Pittsburgh or Columbus…(see Many Dangers, Toils, and Snares). Being  part of a caring church gives me opportunities to join others in making a difference in our community in ways that fit my schedule and abilities.

And when the recipients’ needs are met, I find my own heart filling up with JOY.  As gratitude is expressed, I often reply, “It’s my pleasure!” Perhaps I’ll start adding, “Everybody needs help sometime.”

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

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DEODORANT (at the dentist part 2)

It’s easy to imagine a connection between deodorant and time in a dentist’s chair, but if you’re wondering whose deodorant failed, you’re on the wrong track.

The dental office I visit only has partial walls between chairs, resulting in easily overheard conversations.  In the summer of 2015, I was waiting for the dentist to take a look at my just polished teeth so I could go home.  He was talking with the gentleman in the next room about a needed filling.  The patient had some questions about what type of filling would be used and expressed concern about the mercury in “silver fillings”.  Our doctor’s adamant response was that the metallic mercury found in the dental amalgam that has been used for 200 years is safe.  He explained that studies do not show the blood of people with the fillings to contain more mercury that those without them.  He also pointed out the durability and lower cost of metal fillings when compared to tooth-colored composite fillings.  The conversation continued.  I wonder if the guy was genuinely concerned or was putting off getting his tooth filled.  My dentist was persistent and eventually convinced him to get the silver filling.

After doing the work, the dentist sent the man on his way, then came in to check on me.  He was still a bit worked up about the challenge to the safety of dental amalgam and asked if I had heard them talking.  I admitted that I had, which triggered an unexpected conversation about deodorant.  He expressed frustration that the practice of using metal fillings has been attacked while other proven health dangers are ignored, then proceeded to tell me that the aluminum in deodorant causes breast cancer.  I had no response, which is OK because he was checking my teeth, making it impossible for me to speak.

I left the office with a new toothbrush, a tiny box of dental floss, and a piece of information related to my breast health to chew on.  I had heard of both potential metal-related health risks, and now  a medical professional was implying that I should not use deodorant. Googling turned up some rather convincing articles, as well as alternatives for aluminum-laden deodorant. I started poofing baby powder in my armpits and decided to ask my breast specialist about the risk.  During my routine visit a few weeks later, she asked if I had any questions, opening the door for deodorant discussion.  She took the time to explain that if there was a correlation between deodorant and breast cancer, many more people would have it since we all apply deodorant.  She assured me that I could continue using it without fear.  However, she revealed that they are seeing women develop breast cancer from carrying their cell phones in their bras.

While at the North Dakota State Fair in 2016, I spotted this entry in the Bedazzle Your Bra contest that seemed to lend credence to her warning.

Here’s how I’ve handled each of these three potential risks:

  1. I’ll be happy if the few metal dental fillings that I have stay in my teeth for the rest of my life, and I’m doing my best to avoid needing more (see part 1 of this series: YELLED AT).
  2. Since I had already given up my old aluminum-laden deodorant, I decided to try to keep fresh in a more natural way. After trying a couple of natural stick deodorants that were not quite enough, I’ve begun using a product that I LOVE!  This is a pump (not aerosol) that has no odor and no residue to get on my clothes.  It works all day and all night!  I bought two so I could put one in my travel bag.

3.  A cell phone in MY bra?! Laughable. But breast cancer is no laughing matter, so if you’ve been tucking yours in, I hope that you’ll make your bra a NO PHONE ZONE.




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YELLED AT (at the dentist part 1)

I see my dentist twice a year and brush and floss every day.   My cleanings have been a breeze, and I’ve only had a handful of cavities during my lifetime.  I have been accustomed to hearing compliments such as, “You have awesome teeth!” and, “You’re doing a great job.” That is, until my last visit.

Six months ago, the hygienist seemed to labor to get my teeth clean and spent far too long scraping and digging at the outside of my lower left molar.  It was painful.  The young lady then asked me if anything has changed because I had more tartar than usual.  “No,”  I answered, only to be asked, “Have you been flossing every day?”  Beginning to feel insulted, I assured her that I have.  She proceeded to explain the proper way to floss and asked if I floss beyond the last tooth.  Feeling a little like a scolded child, I admitted that I usually don’t (isn’t floss for between teeth?), but would start.  The dentist came in, took a look, and said “Everything looks good.”

I went home with a sore mouth and my nose out of joint.  It made more sense to me now that my husband calls a hygienist from his past Attila the Hun.  I understood why my mom dreads going to the dentist.  They’re used to getting yelled at in the office.  Yelled at? Well, I wasn’t exactly yelled at .  In fact, the young lady was politely informing me that I should work a little harder at keeping my mouth healthy. I couldn’t deny that she found tartar, and I have been diligent since then to reach all the way back with the floss and to brush that area more carefully. Thinking back, I may have been more embarrassed than insulted.

A bit of introspection reveals that by saying I was yelled at, I’ve managed to shift the blame to her. We consider yelling to be a negative behavior.  I wonder how many times a student has claimed that a teacher yelled at him when the interaction was calm, but critical. Most of us don’t like to be corrected, whether we’re children or adults.  Sometimes, rather than admitting there’s room for improvement, we accuse the other person of yelling or judging.

One of the Winners Walk Tall lessons that I take to First Graders is called, “Try to Compliment, Not to Criticize.” When I presented it this year, I used my dentist’s office experience to make a point.  We first explored the positive action of complimenting.  We discussed being kind and keeping negative opinions about others to ourselves. Importance was placed on considering the other person’s feelings when we speak.  I then related being chewed out about my teeth and told them that it made me feel bad.   Had the hygienist been wrong in pointing out my flaw? They quickly shook their heads and said, “No, because she was trying to help you.” Lesson understood.

My hope is that these young students can take instruction and critique well, enabling them to improve skills, increase knowledge, and have respect for their advisors.  And yet, my own pride sometimes threatens my ability to accept helpful advice without feeling a bit defensive. Considering the source helps.  When the correction comes from someone I’m paying to help me be healthy, turning a deaf ear wouldn’t be wise.  Should someone who loves me point out a concern about my behavior or attitude, humility will enable me to resist taking offense and to carefully examine my life.

 Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Proverbs 19:20

I have three more “at the dentist” experiences to write about.  My next visit is coming up in a couple of weeks. If there is criticism, I’m expecting it to be about abrasion from brushing too hard. The series could be extended…




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