My teeth and what they have taught me

by Gabriele Conrad, Goonellabah, Australia

My teeth used to really distress me, and visits to the dentist even more so. Not because I was scared, but because I just didn’t get teeth, this part of our body that does not regenerate. It felt like my teeth were aliens in my body and didn’t behave how they should, but ran their own agenda.

  • You start with one filling and then you have more.
  • You keep getting bigger fillings as new bits of decay appear.
  • Bits of a tooth might break off requiring reconstructive work.
  • A tooth comes out, and of course it doesn’t grow back and you get a bridge.
  • Another tooth comes out and you decide you can’t afford the bridge and leave the gap; and also, it is at the back of your mouth. But chewing becomes a bit more difficult and uneven, food can get stuck and the teeth on either side of the gap start leaning across.
  • More teeth come out and you need dentures or decide to have implants.
  • Your gums are not looking that great, they bleed a lot and your teeth are sensitive.
  • You want to have implants but there might be problems with the bones of your jaw.

And so the list goes on.

I found teeth depressing and visits to the dentist a bit of a downer. They do a great job and I haven’t really had any bad experiences at all, but the relentlessness of the deterioration, no matter how slow and well managed, together with the perpetual catch-up and “what’s the bad news?” flavour of each dental visit, never failed to put a dampener on me.

This all changed when I started attending Universal Medicine workshops and presentations. I learnt about taking responsibility rather than taking my health for granted and considering myself mainly indestructible (except for my teeth, that is). And I got to understand that teeth are a reflection of my past choices, all of them.

As I started making more self-loving choices in the way I lived, I actually began to floss more regularly, rather than just the obligatory half-hearted manoeuvres I had previously executed once or twice a week. And because I knew and could feel that it was about me and for me, I started to enjoy looking after myself in this way and flossing daily became part of my rhythm, part of what I do for me.

I really started to appreciate my teeth for the role they play and what they are there to show me, whatever their state of health or lack of it might be, and that includes my gums, which, by the way, have improved out of sight.

And I found a great dental practice so I now look forward to my dental visits, and the level of care and attention to detail that I am afforded is truly amazing. No longer are my teeth aliens in my body; they are alive and communicating to me by the way they present. Visits to my dentist are not obligatory catch-up procedures anymore, but opportunities to appreciate what is being offered by my body and to deepen my understanding, appreciation and self-care.

938 thoughts on “My teeth and what they have taught me

  1. “I really started to appreciate my teeth for the role they play and what they are there to show me, whatever their state of health or lack of it might be, and that includes my gums, which, by the way, have improved out of sight.” An inspiring read Gabriele – bringing love and tender care to everything we do includes what I used to consider mundane things such as brushing our teeth.

    1. There really is no such thing as a ‘mundane’ thing, coming to think of it. Is it possible that there are no ‘out’ times. and that everything is equally as important as everything else?

  2. Our health can really start to turn around when we actually start paying attention to what our body feels like on the inside, and not just focusing on fixing the bits that don’t work. Inspiring reading this Gabriele how you turned things around so that you actually enjoyed looking after your teeth and all that they’re reflecting back to you in how you look after and treat yourself. Self-care is a movement and a quality in everything we do.

  3. I recall finding teeth care and maintenance a real chore that stood in the way of getting my alcohol infused body to bed, so it was often skimped over and short-cutted. The same mentality that said it was fine to pour a poison down my throat every night also said your teeth will be fine if you leave cleaning them till the morning. This is the opposite of self care and feels horrible to remember.

    1. It sounds like you couldn’t even imagine not brushing your teeth now Doug. Once I make something into a ritual and can feel the purpose of it, it becomes very difficult for me to ignore as I know, without a doubt, the difference it makes to how I feel, and the quality of thoughts I have.

      1. That’s right Vicky but if I don’t I notice consequences straight away. A while back I was so tired one night that I cut corners on my teeth cleaning regime and the next morning I had some calculus formed that I could not remove and needed to wait for the next visit to the hygienist.

      2. How do you notice this yourself? Do you have a staining agent that you can use to discover the calculus?

      3. You can get stuff that stains, temporarily so you can see plaque but because I spend so much time cleaning my teeth and am so familiar with how they should be and these deposits were on the lower front teeth, I could clearly see them. They weren’t the soft plaque that you can remove with brushing, but rather a very hard white deposit. Plaque turns into calculus if you dont remove it, but what amazed me was that it happened so quick, i.e. in 24 hours.

      4. I reckon you’re right there, the body is miraculous and gives us many signs, once we become aware of it.

      5. Brushing has become a ritual that has supported me from day dot. I have always found that like my house the body needs the time and care to be cleaned and appreciated for what it offers us each and everyday. Over the years I have noticed that the way I brush my teeth has changed… sitting down, choosing toothpaste that supports my health, changing my toothbrush regularly and flossing with more care and precision.

      6. I know what you mean Natalliya. With a recent trip to the dentist, my toothcare has gone to another level. Each time I go to the dentist I learn more detail and care and ultimately love.

  4. I could not care about my teeth at all for a long time, they felt like a hassle to look after and frankly I did not want to know what was wrong with them. Not until I began finding myself worth taking care of, did I start to really enjoying taking care of my teeth. Now going to the dentist is a regular and consistent routine for me that I look forward to.

    1. Thank you Adele. I can relate to what you are saying which helps me to appreciate how I am now taking care of myself and also allows me to consider some people I know who don’t seem to care about their teeth at all and to realise that it is probably their lack of self worth that is driving this and it is for me to love them without any attachment or investment in how they care for themselves.

      1. We can only care for ourselves and leave other people the space to do as they please, just as we want to be given the space and freedom to do as we see fit, and all without judgment or comparison either way.

  5. The body is the marker of our livingness, if we do not take care with it, we cannot but feel it one day or another.

  6. I have had my fair share of rough and agitated dentists who have made me feel fearful in the chair. I now have a lovely dentist who is gentle and talks to me about everything she is doing. It makes such a difference and now I don’t mind making my 6 monthly visits.

  7. When I was younger I drank a lot of cola and ate sugar in enormous amounts. As a result I had eleven fillings through the years, and hated dentists – in the early days there drills were very slow and jarred my nerve endings. Gradually I have taken on the consistency of brushing day and night, not only because of the awful taste in my mouth when I don’t but because it felt right to do, instead of the ‘Oh I cant’ be bothered’ approach, I make sure I bother. I had gingivitis – my gums were red and receding but now I use those cute little inter-dental brushes and a good electric toothbrush, my gum health has improved enormously. Flossing has taken a little longer to get on with but having the plastic shaped floss holders makes it easier. In recent years, having found a super dentist who really took good care of me, I had the mercury amalgams removed and last year I had braces fitted with a view to straightening my teeth. That has been a very uncomfortable experience, but the braces are about to be removed this week and I’m looking forward to being able to smile openly, without shame about the state of my teeth!

  8. I alway found my visits to the dentist were filled with trepidation, like many. But this was because I knew the care I had taken in what I ate was not as great as it could be. It is funny how we do know when we are not making choices that support our health, and I guess the dentist is one place where we get a strong obvious reflection of how we have been living.

  9. I now also enjoy flossing more regularly and the attention to detail in taking the time to care for myself in this way has a ripple effect in how I allow myself more space to do other caring things for myself building a steadiness and rhythm that really supports my body.

    1. I appreciate the way you bring the word ‘space’ into it – “I allow myself more space to do other caring things for myself”. There comes a point when the rushing and squeezing and cramming subside and we move in a space of our own making, supported by the all we are a part of.

  10. Gabriele, this is great to read, what you have shared here is very interesting and makes me consider more why my teeth are as they are – with lots of fillings and not in the best shape, ‘teeth are a reflection of my past choices, all of them.’ I love how you have taken responsibility for looking after them. I too am now looking after my teeth and have regular hygienist appointments and found a dentist where it actually doesn’t hurt at all – she is patient and gentle and so I no longer dread my trips to the dentist, after many years of not looking after my teeth I am enjoying caring for them and having a teeth care routine in the morning and evening.

  11. There is always an explanation. We cannot explain human life from the human perspective… we must recognise that there is more at play here

  12. Our teeth really do show us, don’t they and as you say they don’t regenerate. I’ve learned so much from mine over the years and it continues still, and how they are each day is such a great tell for how I’ve been and how I am and they always tell, whether it be gums or the teeth, they tell. How great is that, so now rather than being peeved or annoyed by it, I learn to see where I can take better care and what is going on with me and life.

  13. I know what you mean about a tooth’s foreign qualities Gabriele, a bit like a rock formation that turned up in our body from out of the blue. But what I learnt from listening to you, is how so very often it’s the things we resist and misunderstand that have the most to offer us, if only we care enough to see what that might be.

  14. Teeth are one of the body parts that are right there, at sight, for us to learn both to take care of ourselves and to understand that our mouth is part of the whole that we are and as such, that they reflect our choices and momentums.

  15. The joy of embracing our body, how we care for it and what it is there to show us! It sure beats taking it for granted and living in disconnection from what we are literally walking around and living in every moment.

    1. Which throws a different light on our so-called progress, doesn’t it? How come we so readily abuse the one thing that is always with us, our body?

  16. It reminds that I was once reading about the way to treat our teeth as diamonds, they are all beautiful stones with different colors and forms. To brush them in that honoring way makes a huge different for the health of our teeth and teeth gum.

  17. Aaah dentists. Dentists know me well. I once went in and needed nine fillings. Nine!! As a kid I had some teeth work done and the anaesthetic wore off halfway through – I was terrified ever since. I get what you say about self caring as that’s one area where I changed the relationship with my teeth – I also gave up sugar. My last visit to the dentist was painless and with a clean bill of health, so to speak. My attitude has changed and the care I’ve put in has been confirmed by pleasant experiences and no more fillings 😁

  18. I have always been called an ‘obsessive flosser” from my family growing up. They couldn’t believe that brushing my teeth at night was never enough and that flossing was something you did once a week. This idea of being an obsession was far from the truth as I had an absolute love of feeling the order and regard in my mouth no different to the detail I would take to ironing my clothes so they were not creased or apply my makeup and styling my hair. Over the years I have noticed that carrying a small toothbrush and floss in my handbag has been a great support when travelling or moving to a group meeting after a lunch when I am out of the work place. When we bring more care to our bodies the levels of awareness increase and so what was considered a simple tooth brushing session has now become a ritual of joy when I wake, travel in the day and prepare myself for bed each night.

    1. Wow, I’ve never come across a better testimonial for the art and joy of flossing our teeth. I love the expression of “feeling the order and regard in my mouth” – it takes flossing to a whole new level.

  19. “…teeth are a reflection of my past choices, all of them.”

    This gives us a clue as to why so many of us ignore our teeth and do not tend to them with daily care. It is a reflection of our unwillingness to look to the past and take responsibility for the steps walked, if what we have walked has not been with great love and due care.

    1. The unwillingness to look at past choices catches up with us sooner or later and our dental bills reflect that, as do our teeth and gums. Everything is stored in and reflected by the body.

  20. Taking care of my teeth is like caring for my car, or getting insurance – it’s all part of our maintenance that forms a solid and supportive foundation. It’s caring for ourselves in the moment and leaving no path behind us of what needs to be dealt with.

  21. “As I started making more self-loving choices in the way I lived, I actually began to floss more regularly, rather than just the obligatory half-hearted manoeuvres I had previously executed once or twice a week.” Same for me too. When we start to make more loving choices for ourselves the array of changes that can happen without any trying, feels amazing.

  22. It is very true Gabriele, our teeth and gums are no different to any other part of the body, communicating constantly what is going on. If we care to listen and respond lovingly, the relationship we can develop is a life-long meaningful one.

  23. How wonderful Gabriele that you are learning more about yourself through the love and care you afford your teeth; like you, we only need but listen to what our teeth and gums are constantly communicating.

  24. I used to absolutely dread going to the dentist. It was always a trip that ended in tears!. These days I realize that every time I visit the dentist I receive a healing. My teeth show me exactly how I am living and rather than fight that information I now use it as a way to heal and move on with my life.

  25. Great blog Gabriele, I’ve certainly started taking more care of my teeth, as I’ve started to get older I have realised how important looking after them are, and as a result I take better care of myself all round.

    1. Yes, I used to shrug at the suggestion to have a dental hygienist support me with my oral care and thought I knew it all. All I was really doing was to live in disregard and disrespect and from a lack of commitment.

  26. I very much appreciate what my trips to the dentist teach me about, for example how I may grind my teeth at night, reflecting the anxiety, frustration or anger I may take to bed each night.

  27. “Visits to my dentist are not obligatory catch-up procedures anymore, but opportunities to appreciate what is being offered by my body and to deepen my understanding, appreciation and self-care.” Wow what a fantastic approach to life and to dentistry. I love how you’ve described your relationship with your teeth as a living, breathing part of your body that communicates with you. Perhaps rather than a quick in and out visit, we have a lot more to learn from our dentists than we give credit for.

    1. Definitely – dentists are there to support and my dentist does this exceptionally well and with utter and complete dedication.

  28. It is true that by and large, we only have a functional relationship with teeth which we do not always honour. The moment we realize that teeth reflect a lot on our choices, we have a new ground to relate to them… and to us.

    1. Great point – we have a functional relationship with our body, full stop. And that falls way short of what the body delivers, moment to moment.

  29. When we understand that it is our responsibility to take care for ourselves first then the love we bring to our body is reflected back to us in pure and honest communication.

  30. I remember in my drinking days that cleaning my teeth felt a huge chore and consequently they got a superficial clean so I could get to bed quicker and the result was gum problems. These days I have been clear of gum disease for over 20 years and I love the spending of quality time with myself cleaning them to the best of my ability every day.

  31. It is beautiful when we start to understand that our teeth are a direct reflection on how we have been living, and it’s an opportunity to take more care or our teeth and gums. Giving more time to cleaning them and building purposeful and regular visits to the dentist.

  32. What an amazing turnaround Gabriele, to come to a deep understanding of what your teeth offer you. Like you I’ve learned hugely from my teeth and I now take care of both them and my gums in a way that would have been unimaginable years ago, and it’s not a chore I realised reading this evening, it’s part of my daily self care and I feel somewhat odd or that something is missing if I don’t do it. And it’s no longer about doing it so that I save my teeth or because I have to, it’s done with deep care and because I want to, which is a very deep shift in my approach in how I live. So my teeth have shown me so much, and I love them for it.

  33. I used to visit the dentist expecting him to ‘fix’ whatever needed fixing. Now I am aware of my own responsibility in caring for my teeth and a visit to the dentist can be a reflection of the level of self-care.

  34. I would hazard a guess that most people feel like you used to about caring for their teeth. Just a quick whizz around with a toothbrush and leave it at that. But if my mouth is anything to go by you cannot care for your teeth adequately with a quick whizz round, it takes time and experimenting with different tools until you find a routine that works and prevents the deterioration that you talk about. Then spending that time every day without fail is essential.

  35. This highlights to me how every part of our body offers us the equal opportunity to deepen our connection to ourselves, honouring who we are, as such preparing a body of love that is open to receive the evolution on offer in every given moment.

  36. And so the list does go on and on Gabriele; for me your blog highlights the need to understand and appreciate what our bodies offer, learning and expanding from each and every ‘message.’

  37. I love how you have turned around your experiences of going to the dentist now as “opportunities to appreciate what is being offered by my body and to deepen my understanding, appreciation and self-care.” This is such a great reflection of how our body is able to clearly communicate to us when we need to take more care and learn what is truly supportive and what is not. The whole of our body responds the more gentle and caring we are.

  38. Yes taking our health for granted is something I can relate to, especially when I was younger. I just didn’t think that I could become unwell, super tired on a regular basis or have something debilitating happen. Then when it comes to our teeth, we tend to take these even more for granted, thinking they are going to be there forever. But we do need to focus on all aspects of our body for it to flourish, be healthy and vital.

  39. It is quite annoying that they don’t regenerate, or grow back. But then that is part of the beauty of it… they do call us to account with the build up of plaque, or small bits of decay leading to bigger and bigger fillings. No escape. So do we learn or allow the rot to continue?

  40. Thank you Gabriele a great confirmation that everything matters, no matter how insignificant we think it is. Our bodies truly are a barometer of all things in our lives that affect us.

  41. After years of having ignored my teeth as a teenager and in my 20’s I am amazed they have stayed in great condition. Now I would’t consider not brushing them or flossing. Taking the time to have 6 month check ups at the dentist has supported that hugely.

      1. I could say at the time I was too scared to go because it had been so long I felt a bit ashamed and dreaded if my teeth needed work on them but prolonging a dentist visit doesn’t make it any easier ! Now I see it as not taking care and responsibility for myself if I don’t go.

      2. As with most other things, the longer we leave what needs attending to, the scarier and more unsurmountable it becomes in our mind.

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