Do This Now, Save Thousands Later!

(And quite probably prevent a whole lot of pain, too…)

If I could go back and institute one simple habit that would have an enormous impact on my life now, it wouldn’t be saving lots of money, or not racking up huge student loans, or not buying something when I chose to buy. As detrimental as those bad habits were to my financial health, all of them can and will be rectified in the future. And I’ve learned a lot, even if it’s come at a price.

No, the one thing I’d change would be something that at first seems to have nothing to do with financial health.

If I could, I’d go back to my child or teen self, and make it clear that the choice to not brush my teeth and floss every day will have huge implications in the future, and that no amount of future dental care will ever make up for the fact that I’ve lost a number of teeth, and will lose a number more before the year ends.

As I write this, I’m under the influence of Tylenol 3 with Codiene and Caffiene, as well as taking a course of antibiotics to deal with the cause of the original pain, an infection of a cavity riddled tooth. The pain has kept me from washing the dishes, making my bed, putting away my clothes, and writing among other activities. I’ve consumed far to many painkillers in the last week or so, and I’ve had to call in the troops to help me with my paper route. Eating has been torture. (On the good side, I’ve lost about a pound in the last week…)

The dentist yesterday ruled out a root canal — in addition to the infection and the (previously filled) cavity, the tooth is cracked front to back. It needs to come out. Cost: About $250. Eventually, I’ll need an implant or dentures. Cost: Upwards from $1000. Yikes!

Our dental health is so integral to the rest of our health that it’s amazing to me that OHIP doesn’t cover it. According to the Mayo Clinic, gum disease (just one result of poor brushing habits) has been implicated not only in tooth loss, but coronary artery disease, stroke, low birth weight babies, poorly controled diabetes, and respiratory problems. I also can’t imagine that people with visibly stained, broken teeth will have an easy time getting high paying job, or even a lower paying one that requires interaction with the public, because the sad reality is that looks do matter. (I’m lucky that way–my front teeth are all in good condition, so my gaps don’t show, even when I smile.) And that’s on top of the problems you’ll have eating rare steak with no molars. Double and triple yikes!

And it can all be prevented with a toothbrush, toothpaste containing flouride, and dental floss. I’ve noted that these are readily available at food banks, if you can’t afford the three dollars plus tax that you’d pay for these items at a dollar store.

It’s not rocket science. Brush twice a day. Floss once a day. Keep your choppers in working order, and keep your gums nice and pink and intact.

Your pocketbook and your future self will thank you!

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About Ruth Cooke

Ruth Cooke B.A, M.Div., MPS is a writer, public speaker, and itinerant preacher whose areas of expertise and interest include poverty issues and solutions, parenting exceptional children, sexual orientation, and the place of religious institutions in society. If you would like Ruth to come preach, speak or lead a class or group, please contact her via email.
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