Teeth brushing

From various health professionals you’ll hear “you brush your teeth every day, why not exercise with the same commitment and regularity?”  Why do so many who would never neglect their teeth neglect their organs, joints, bones?  People who know enough about physiology to choose not to mistreat various body parts brush their teeth religiously while chronically not attending to other components of the system.  It would be easy to dismiss this phenomenon as the result of a fickle or ignorant choice – we just aren’t realizing the inconsistency.

But why wouldn’t we?  Why the teeth?  It has to be that somehow, somewhere along the line, someone did a good enough job of convincing us to take care of our teeth.  A better job than anyone has yet done of convincing us to take care of our blood sugar levels, or our lumbar spines, or our skin.  Someone, or a group of someones, made a compelling enough argument for the maintenance of teeth to outshine the arguments for other maintenance.

Maybe it’s because the pictures are so graphic – the rotting teeth and the discolored gums.  We start showing them to children when they’re very young.  That’s been one of the approaches used to discourage smoking as well.  We don’t see gruesome pictures of what can happen if you don’t get enough exercise.  Maybe that’s it.  It’s just too abstract to get our attention.

An interesting experiment is to decide not to brush your teeth each day until you’ve completed some other care-taking task that you might otherwise resist – something that usually gets swept aside in the course of your busy days.  (Perhaps something with which you could replace a TV show or part of your reading time.)  Notice what you’re thinking about it.  Why is the toothbrushing worth the time and effort it takes while the other is not?  If you opt to forego both in order to keep your promise of not favoring the teeth, what do you tell yourself and what, if anything, changes your mind?

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