Dental Damn

Looka dem perfect teef.

Hello hello, peeps.

I hope everyone had a good Labor Day weekend, and it seems like luck was with Biloxi and New Orleans recently.

Now, I want to talk about something that I’ve been putting off for the last couple of weeks.


Or, to those of you who are all educated, “teeth.”

That’s right. Those marvelous structures of pulp, cementum, dentin, and enamel. Your dental pattern, of course, is unique to you and you alone. Enamel is the hardest substance your body produces, and will likely be the part of you that lasts the longest after you have shuffled off this mortal coil.

If, that is, you have any teeth at that point.

So, with that in mind, I direct you tothis article from last December. Please, go read it.

That’s some sad shit, ain’t it? People who, for various reasons, have to live painful and often shameful lives because they have awful teeth. Yes, some of it is clearly individual choice–the tweakers, or the people who intentionally break their teeth to get prescription pain meds. Some of it has to do with the interaction of societal pressure and individual choice, as with tobacco use. And some of that shit is just tragic. Underfunded schools, poverty, domestic violence, malnutrition–these things contribue to making the lives of our fellow Americans awful. And, as our own incomparable Athenae notes, it’s not somebody else’s problem. It’s ours. Yours and mine. 

Now, readthis Time magazine article from three years ago.

Fucking amazing, isn’t it? Fluoridation of water, in addition to being one of thegreatest black jokes in the greatest black comedy ever, is a public health success of unfathomable proportions. Along with childhood immunization, folic acid fortification of bread, and general sanitation, this shit has changed life in a way that is goddamn near miraculous. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine how much poorer our lives would be without these developments–until you go to some place that lacks one or more. 

But, no. These cocksuckers who say, “Well, I can afford to buy my own fluoride rinse. Why should it be in the water?” really piss me off. They’re on the same page with the anti-vaccination dipshits. It’s bigger than you, shitbirds. It’s a public health issue. Don’t free ride, and don’t opt out. 

Ain’t you shitheads ever read John Donne? Meditation XVII?

man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the
continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a
manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes
me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know
for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a
begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not
miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next
house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an
excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and
scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is
not matured and ripened by and made fit for God by that affliction. If
a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none
coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he
travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not
current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our
home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death,
and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of
no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out
and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s
danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by
making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

That’s right, bitches. It fucking tolls for thee. While I think Donne’s religiosity is irrelevant, his sentiment that we are all bound up together is right on the money. When one of us is poorer, we all are. Would that riches worked the same way. It’s up to us to look out for each other, people. 

Why did I wait so long to bring this up? 

Well, to answer that, I’m going to have to share some personal information.

I’ve been poor in life.

Dirt poor.

I mean living in shitty housing development, on food stamps, going to bed hungry poor. I’ve had to deal with the embarrassment of watching grocery store clerks judge my Mom’s purchases because, you know, if you’re using food stamps, you really shouldn’t be getting that ice cream for your kid’s birthday. I have, as a child, stood in line for that neon-colored substance known as “gub’mint cheese.” And, yes, I’ve lived in a fucking trailer. In Mississippi.

Healthcare, obviously, was beyond our means, unless there was a serious illness. And thank Jeebus there weren’t many of those, or shit would’ve been even worse than it was. So, naturally, I didn’t get to the dentist much.

Like, at all.

Until I was almost nineteen years old, and in the military. 

At that time, I had four cavities. This, despite all the cane syrup and biscuits, despite the poor diet and the occasional lack of food. Why? Two reasons: First, my parents taught me to brush my teeth. My father had terrible, rotting teeth, and he hated it–the way they looked, they way they hurt, the way they caused other people to look at him. So he and my mother made sure that their kids knew their way around a toothbrush. Second, we drank fluoridated city tap water. If it weren’t for fluoridated water, I probably wouldn’t have many teeth in my head right now. And I’m only 33. 

So I have personally benefited from this public health miracle. There are millions more like me who have–but also millions who haven’t. To see reasonably well-educated, well-off people who, for whatever reasons, are condemning poorer people to a painful, miserable existence makes me sick to my stomach. 

And mad as hell.

I’m often ashamed of how poor I’ve come to realize my family was. But I’m also grateful for the public programs (even in their sad-ass incarnations down South) that did so much to help me. Fluoride. Food stamps. Public schools (again, shitty, but better than nothing). Libraries. And, later in life, the GI Bill. Yeah, I’m a welfare case. And I’m fuckin-A glad that those things were there. They represented, in the end, other people recognizing that my plight was theirs. That my misery would not only diminish my life, but everyone’s.

So remember this little story the next time you hear some smug son-of-a-bitch go on about how government programs are evil, or fluoridated water is terrible. It’s not just about you, asshole. It’s bigger than you.

So is life.

11 thoughts on “Dental Damn

  1. Right on. I’m a fucking “welfare case” too; I’ve been on it three times in my adult life. I’ll tell you, I’m 33, and had an upper-middle-class upbringing, and I’m feeling every year of that decade or so I spent in dire poverty (and being on Welfare in the jolly old Province of Ontario was dire poverty; I was stealing toilet paper because I had about enough money to pay the rent and billsor buy groceries) in my teeth now.
    Some of the stuff from that Time article was head-deskingly stupid, like the woman who asked “Why would I want to put toxic industrial chemicals in my children’s bodies?” *headdesk* First of all, eedjit, the dose makes the poison. Second of all:
    Eat fish? Whoops, you just ingested mercury.
    Drank out of an aluminum can lately? Hell, lady, did you breastfeed your kids? There’s about 50ug of aluminum per serving in that breastmilk…
    Drank out of a plastic bottle lately?
    Ever used shampoo, commercially-available soap, hair dye, or cosmetics? You don’t want toknow what’s in some of those, some of which is way more toxic than fluoride — in large amounts…
    Do you live in a painted house? Use anything that contains metal or plastic? Do you drink bottled water? (Ew.)
    As they say one door over from here, je reste mon cas.
    Secondly, I think there has been some excellent barefoot epidemiology showing that water fluoridation really does make a difference. People in the Toronto suburbs, concerned about the quality of the tap water, as bored yuppies often get concerned about issues that don’t affect them, switched en masse to bottled water. Three or four years later — despite these being folks who have every material advantage, brush their teeth regularly (no doubt), and can buy their own fucking fluoride rinse in the 50-gallon EconoPak size at Sam’s Club — they started seeing a huge upsurge in the number of cavities they and their kids were having. (Surprise surprise…)
    Thirdly, this is exactly the same shit that’s going on with anti-vaccinationists right now. It seems as though there’s a concerted effort to simplyeradicate public health as we know it. Some of these freaks are going to have to watch their kidsdie of vaccine-preventable diseases, and watch their kids’ doctors’ faces as it happens. What are they going to think then? “Durr…Well, at least Junior wasn’t autistic”?! (Not that vaccines cause autism, butthey all think it does.) *headdesk*
    Shit, man, if they want to live in the 19th Century, I’ll be happy to help invent a time machine. Me, I want to live in the 21st.

  2. I am constantly amazed by the number of people who have been infected by Bat Guano insanity. There are a couple of people at work I know who think fluoridation is a bad thing. Go figure.
    This gets back to a point I made on another thread–government is there for us when we can’t help ourselves. When individuals in our society benefit from government programs, the whole of society benefits. Our college, which is funded primarily by local taxes, gives back nearly a billion dollars to our community every year in increased productivity, jobs created, and a better educated population. Talk about value added.
    Unfortunately, too many people don’t believe in something unless they can touch it and feel it. Well, okay then, how about GOOD TEETH?

  3. as one who has suffered growing up with a mother who didn’t teach very good dentil hygiene, i am in pretty good shape for the amount of sugars consumed. but boy oh boy to i take care of them now. and DON’T FORGET YOUR GUMS! oh crap, i got the wrong tom’s of maine. they to haz flouride free shit.
    local teevee gnews makes you STUPID.
    at least my teeth LOOK fairly nice. even the bottoms are straight.

  4. my teef look terrible, Jude — but I hear you.
    As a kid we were on “relief” for nearly two years after an explosion at work almost killed my dad. If we hadn’t lived on a farm, I really don’t think we’d’ve made it. “Relief” in those days was actual USDA surplus groceries — canned lunch meat, government cheese, butter, powdered eggs, powdered milk, rice, dry beans, cornmeal, flour, prunes, raisins, and shortening; sometimes a can or two of chicken or turkey. No baking soda, no salt, no baking powder; sometimes sugar, sometimes not.
    You could have lived nearly without a refrigerator, and for sure without a freezer, but I’m glad we didn’t have to.
    And it wasn’t a “farm” like today, with, you know, 30 square miles of one crop and hired hands (from Mexico so instead of issuing paychecks the corporate overlords could call ICE Thursday night and start new broke hands on Saturday). It was a ‘family farm’ — me and my mom and bro and sis (who were at the time preschoolers ’cause I was still in grade school) to do the chores until Dad got well. Milking three Jersey cows, raising more than 500 chickens at a time (selling butter, eggs, and fresh-dressed fryers for the money to pay the $60 a month mortgage). Raising pigs to sell too. Eating home-grown milk, butter, eggs, chicken … and one year a hog, the year after a steer.
    But I had a bus ride to school from mid-August until the Friday before Memorial Day every year, and I was lucky — my teachers, though none of them were young, all cared about the kids they taught. And I could walk to the library at lunch if I wanted. The Public Library — where there was no limit on the books I could take home, for two whole weeks at a time, and the librarian didn’t care if they were in my ‘grade list’ or not.
    Didn’t have TV for awhile in there — the console black-and-white went out and there wasn’t money for a new one, and it wasn’t a tube Mom could find in the kiosk at the grocery store.
    Did a little hunting and a little fishing in those days, for variety’s sake, and learnt to garden; and I thought Euell Gibbons was a GENIUS, because he could eat the stuff all our neighbors called weeds.

  5. I know it’s a serious post with an important point, but the fantastically amusing title just sucks all the oxygen out.

  6. Sorry, but posted on the wrong thread.
    Agreed that dental appearance has social effects (we are judged on our appearance) and nutritional implications.
    I’d like to add that a lot of evidence is linking dental health to other diseases such as gingivitis to Heart Disease and Diabetes.

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