Why do we spend so much and get so little?
Medicine in general accounts for massive spending in the “developed world”. We applaud how advanced medicine has become. We read articles about medical miracles and content ourselves that we are doing really well. Yet we are building and needing to build more and more and bigger and bigger hospitals. There are not enough beds in our hospitals to accommodate the number of sick people. Our waiting lists are an embarrassment. It seems not to occur to us that these are not the signs great advancement and wonderful progress in medicine. Increasing numbers of people and illness and a shortage of beds despite the bigger hospitals is a sign of the failure of medical science to bring us the health that it promises to bring.
When medical science can boast that the need for beds for sick people is diminishing and that new hospitals are no longer needed, they will then be reporting progress and medical miracles. People are waking up to this more and more and they are unhappy about the way things are. They see the need for change and want a new direction.
People need a new perspective on medicine. They need a new perspective on dental medicine, a new perspective on the mouth and dental disease. They have been trying so hard to get it right and the are tired and weary. They are weary of listening to scientists tell them what is wrong and how to fix it. They are weary of putting so much in but not getting so much out.
If we know so much, how did this happen?
One man that I saw recently had brushed his teeth so long and so hard that they were literally destroyed by his own efforts at saving them. The gums were 70% destroyed and the teeth were worn through past their centres and waving in the breeze. They were literally waving him good-bye. What had happened to this diligent man, who had never missed a six-monthly check-up and brushed his teeth at least four times a day?
He was on the brink of losing all his teeth as a direct result of his massive effort all his life to ensure that he would not lose his teeth. Emotionally he was distraught and who could blame him. He had done all he was told to do and more. He had never missed a day in his diligent efforts and now, there was nothing I could do for him to save his teeth. He did not know whether to shout in anger or cry in despair. I looked into his eyes and my heart went out to him.
I too felt like crying. The sense of utter disappointment, despair and frustration was so palpable. I did not know what to say to him. We sat in silence for what seemed like twenty minutes but was probably more like twenty seconds.
“I always did my very best…”, he broke the silence in the most dejected tones. I knew in my heart that this was the absolute truth. That was what made it all the more upsetting. I genuinely felt the beginning of tears. I had no words.
Hypnotized by scientific arrogance?
I wanted to apologise to him for the nonsense of the dental health advice he had listened to and followed to the letter and beyond. I was sure that had he not taken the dentist’s advice he might have saved his teeth. We had let him down so badly and now it was too late to modify or refine the advice or the instructions. He had looked up to and respected the wisdom and authority of dental medical science, followed it to the letter and now he was without hope of reprieve.
“We really should level with people and let them know that we are not the absolute authority that they think we are, or expect us to be” I thought to myself. “People have too much faith in us and too little in their own commonsense and wisdom.”
I knew that if were to tell this very intelligent man that all he had to do to maintain his car in good mechanical order was to wash it two to four times a day, with a professional cleaning every six months, he would never believe me. He would immediately intuit that while his car might be very clean using this practice, he could not count on the engine being maintained in this way and it would not protect him from his own driving or from the damage of a crash or other accidental damage. Yet he could believe it of his dental health without question. After all the dental experts said that it was so!
This is a perspective and a teaching that is so limited as to be of little value. In fact we have just seen that when people take it on as the ultimate recipe for dental health, it can cause the complete demise of the tissues by being brought the extreme. People need a new perspective. They need to understand much about the nature of their dis-ease and its origin. The person needs to come to a place where they can be a full partner with their dental (and medical and other) therapist/s. They need to know what we know but also what we don’t know and to be fully involved in decisions about treatment and management.
If this true story is not a call to awake, what is?