That's why it's amazing to me how many people don't like to go to the dentist.
I think it might be because most people don't know a darned thing about their own teeth. I certainly don't. After all, we can only see a few of them. And since taking care of them is pretty simple, we don't really need to know anything about them past what you learn in health class.
So when we follow the simple regime we are taught, we expect our teeth to hold up their end of the bargain.
Ultimately, no matter how much we brush and how much we lie about how much we floss, we usually end up upside down in a dentist's chair wearing funny glasses and looking way to closely at the pores of someone who is breaking all the rules and using sharp metal pointed things to scratch away at the precious teeth that we have worked so hard to protect.
And, on top of everything, when these dentist people are in our mouths "fixing" things, we can't see anything they're doing. They could be playing tic-tac-toe on our molars and we wouldn't have a clue.
It's no wonder people don't like dentists.
Luckily, the laughing gas makes up for much of this.
I personally don't really feel one way or the other about dentists.
I don't really know why anyone would want to spend all day looking into mouths. The breath thing would probably get to me. Then again, I wouldn't want to spend all day looking at feet or skin or ears any other of the number of specific body parts that specialists spend their time looking at.
But, hey, I'm glad somebody wants to look at that stuff.
I just care about being able to smile.
Which is all I was thinking about this last week the whole time I was upside down in my dentist's chair wearing funny glasses and looking way to closely at the pores of the man who was breaking all the rules and using sharp metal pointed things to scratch away at the precious teeth that I thought I had been doing a pretty good job of protecting.
"You might need a root canal," he told me when he was done.
"Excuse me?" I said. "I thought I had a cavity."
"No," he said. "There's nothing wrong with the tooth you came in for. But it's good you came in anyway."
In the end, it turned out that I, in fact, did not need a root canal after all.
After probing what little was left of my tooth with my tongue before he filled it in, it was hard for me to imagine exactly what more they could have taken out of that tooth, but whatever.
I was happy. My tooth still lived, and my smile was still intact.
You wouldn't think a smile would be that important for a park ranger, but you would be surprised.
A couple years ago, while working the visitor center desk, I looked up to see a huge black man walking through the front door. He must have been a football player. He was at least 6'5" and built like a wall. And as he walked toward the desk I just remember my head tilting back until I was finally looking straight up into his friendly face. It was such a surreal feeling that I must have been grinning like a cheshire cat.
And as I looked up at him, he looked down at me and said, "Nice smile."
"Thanks," I said.
"Can I have a map?" he said.
"Sure," I said.
Not a deep moment, to be sure, but a memorable one.
And just today a different man came into a different visitor center. He had simple questions, and, after every one, I thought he was done and would leave. But after a moment, he would just come up with another question.
Finally, as he turned to go, he said, "It's so nice to talk to someone who smiles so much and so obviously loves her job."
And that's why I will continue to brush and why I will continue to lie about how much I floss. It's why I will continue to sit upside down in a dentist's chair and why I will continue to smile at people when they walk through my door.
Because it makes a difference.
And to me.