Perspective means how you look at something.  People say ‘I know where you are coming from’.  What they mean is that they can appreciate your perspective, your point of view.  When that does not happen they might say ‘I just don’t get you!’

Perspective means to look at something through a particular angle or viewpoint.  Essentially, it is viewing something from where you stand at any particular time in space.  If you stood in a different position you would have a different perspective or a different point of view.  But what has that to do with teeth?

Commonly, what we refer to as science tries to view as objectively as possible.  It does not want a subjective view because it thinks that such a view is contaminated with a person’s own notions and values and so cannot be trusted.  I want to suggest that our subjectivity is not only valuable but it is our very nature.  This means that even our scientists are subjective because they are human and can only see through their own set of eyes and circumstances. 

I would like to suggest that looking from different perspectives helps us to understand and appreciate things better.   So I want to suggest looking at teeth from a different perspective and see what that can teach us.  See if you can appreciate this point of view.

A tooth is a part of a person, a small group of tissues with a particular function in a person’s anatomy and physiology.  Science is already suggesting that each cell is a living entity so I’d like to suggest that we look from the point of view that each tooth is a living entity, a kind of very small person in itself. 

When we see from that perspective, we can begin to appreciate how difficult a life that tooth might be experiencing.  For example, maybe it has a relatively short root and so its level of support is relatively low.  It is easy to see how a tooth with a large root would be able to take forces and pressures that a smaller one would not be able to take.  This is no different than saying that a thick piece of wood is more difficult to break than a twig – simple common sense really.

What about a tooth that has a cavity?  Such a little person is suffering from a disease where part of itself is dead and rotting.  Please excuse my direct language but that is simply the truth.  This can happen in the body.  Sometimes when blood supply is cut off to a particular organ of tissue that organ or tissue will die.  Perhaps you have heard of someone whose blood supply to the leg or foot was so poor that it required amputation.  Perhaps they were fitted with a prosthetic leg or foot so they could walk again after the amputation.

When this happens to the tooth, it also needs an amputation of the dead and diseased tissue and a new prosthetic piece to allow it to function again.  We call that a filling.  Please read my piece on “What is a filling?

Sometimes a filling is small and only a small part of the tooth is amputated.  Other times it is very large and most of the tooth is gone and replaced by the filling material.  When the decay disease goes very deep it threatens the very core of the tooth.  Some people call this the ‘nerve’ of the tooth.  It is the living part of the tooth at the very centre and when the disease gets too close or even sometimes into this part, the tooth, dies.  Now it might be amputated completely.  We call this ‘extraction’!

The tooth has become diseased to its core and dies.  If this happens to a person, the person dies.  With gum disease, the tooth loses its supporting structures and begins to get loose.  It might start to move and drift from its original position.  Finally, with no support, it fails and has to be amputated or sometimes amputates itself and falls out.

When we look from this perspective, we can begin to appreciate our teeth as living body parts, living pieces of ourselves.  Just like our hands, our eyes, our ears, our lungs or any other part.  If a friend is going through a difficulty, we might ask ‘Is there anything I can do to help and support you?’  When have we said that to ourselves or our tissues?

When we think like this about our teeth (or other body parts), we might ask our teeth if there is any way we can help and support them.  What do we know about the problems and difficulties that our teeth have to contend with on a daily basis? Is it time we asked?   We have been told that caring for our teeth is brushing them.  If somebody came into your house twice a day, stripped you naked and scrubbed you head to toe with a big brush and some quite harsh chemicals and walked away telling you that you were cared for, how would that feel to you?  Maybe you are left a few cuts and bruises from the vigour of the ‘caring’ while they are telling you that the harder they scrub you the more they care for you.  Really?

If that was caring and I was a tooth, I would be hoping that they would stop ‘caring’ for me and leave me alone.  I would be dreading their next visit.  How would you feel?  How do your teeth as little persons feel?

If someone on the other hand arrived each day with fragrant oils and bathed you with a soft sponge in warm water with love and tenderness and then dressed you in fresh clean clothes while telling you how much they appreciated you, that would be a different matter entirely.  Would you not agree?

Does that feel more like caring to you?  I would be looking forward to the next visit.  This is what our ‘caring’ for our teeth must become if we are to be truly caring.  This means changing our minds and our perspective as well as the brush

Gentleness is an expression of care.

Over the next few articles we will explore more about ‘care’ as a phenomenon.