Golden advice from a dental assistant that changed my life

Sometimes people give you advice that is meant to get out of a rut in life. “Keep your chin up,” “persistence pays off,” or “when life hands you lemons…” This kind of advice is solid, but it is more of an overarching, catchall-type thing you say to someone when you don’t have any specific advice for a specific problem they have.

Such was not the case in regards to the advice I unexpectedly got from the woman who gets in there before the dentist and does most of the grunt work (ie – the real hero in the dental office [even though she was going HAM on my teeth with the scraper thing, but I digress]).

After the plaque-scraping-around-my-gums fun was over, she began to polish my teeth, and began to tell me that I had “two internal fractures” in one of my front teeth. She gave me a mirror and pointed them out. Sure enough, two little horizontal lines were streaking across my front tooth like tiny rivers on a little white map.

My first thought was “how am I going to fix this? Do I need a tooth cast? Will my tooth just break off when I am eating breakfast?” But then, my 50-something dental assistant began giving me some of the best advice I would never have thought to ask for.

Keep in mind, there was no joking around when she gave me this advice — in her mind, this was info I might not have otherwise thought of, and should take seriously to protect my fractured tooth.

She told me that I should try to avoid getting hit in the face, specifically in the mouth. She told me that if I were ice skating and should fall on the ice, that I should NOT allow myself to fall without bracing myself and landing directly on my face. I should instead put my hands up, or better yet, put my hands up and turn my head so that I would not absorb the impact directly on my mouth.

While she’s telling me this, she is polishing, spraying water in my mouth and using the little water vacuum to pull it right back out, rendering me unable to ask any follow up questions regarding a potential ice skating incident that may or may not be in my short term future. Before I could say anything, she thought the need to elaborate on other situations where I might be in danger, and without a plan to protect my tooth.

She cautioned me to be wary of, and I am going to throw this one in quotes because you’d think I were exaggerating otherwise, “parties where people are swinging around beer bottles and you might get hit in the face.”

This woman is cautioning me about not being at parties where people opening swing beer bottles around at face-level. Parties where everyone is playing whack your neighbor in the hip with your beer bottle, sure we’ve all been there, but I can’t imagine a party where you need to be worried about getting hit in the face with a beer bottle! I mean, I’m glad I canceled my Pete Townshend themed Edward 40-Hands birthday party this year, right?

And she was dead serious. Mind you, I went to the dentist at 11:20 on a Wednesday. It wasn’t like I got the 6:00 a.m. on Saturday and I came straight from the rav. I was wearing slacks and a collar shirt. Granted, I’m sure there are some white collar workers who like to turn it up on the weekends, but the advice still felt a little out there.

She did go on in regards to the swinging beer bottle parties I might attend… Like the ice rink, if I were to see someone swinging a bottle that was going to hit me in the face, I should (and I swear to god this happened, she stopping cleaning my teeth to demonstrate this) I should turn my head (she did this) and put my hands up to block that beer bottle (she did this).

So here I sat, mouth full of fluoride and spit, watching this 50-something woman turn and block an invisible beer bottle with cleaning tools in her hands. This was, needless to say, not the last piece of advice I thought I would get as I finished up at the dentist. Let’s handicap this — before I went in yesterday, if someone gave me 1,000,000:1 odds that the last piece of advice I’d get before leaving wouldn’t be “floss more” or “make sure you wear your night guard,” but instead “protect your face from swinging beer bottles,” I would not have given you the dollar that would have won me a million.

People say you learn something new everyday — that’s one of those blanket-phrase pieces of advice that you take with a grain of salt and forget about as soon as you hear it. However, yesterday, from the unlikeliest of sources, I learned one of the most valuable lessons I don’t know that I’ll ever forget.

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Trumpelstiltskin

Once upon a time, there was a young girl named America who had a beautiful complexion, long flowing hair, and was always willing to lend a hand to those less fortunate than her. She was known around her friends as someone who would take in strangers who might be in trouble, and even gave money to any of her friends who needed it.

But over time, America became confused. She wasn’t sure who she’d become and had some internal struggles (like many people her age deal with). Sometimes, she would look in the mirror and didn’t even recognize who she’d become.

Eventually, America came to a breaking point, and she was locked up in a giant white house and was that there would be severe consequences unless she make herself great again. She cried and cried because she didn’t know how she could ever make America great again.

Then, one night, a man snuck into the white house and promised America he could make her great again.

“My name is Trumpelstiltskin,” said the man, “and I know exactly how to make America great again.”

America was so emotional that she didn’t think what this might mean, but all she knew was that she wanted to be great and didn’t consider the costs. In return, all she had to do was tell Trumpelstiltskin that what he wanted to do was great. America agreed that if Trumpelstiltskin would make her great again, she would look the other way on anything he said or did.

And so Trumpelstiltskin left, and the next day America saw him on the news. He said all sorts of crazy things, was rude to people America once considered friends. She wanted to call her friends and tell them she really wasn’t like that, but since she made a promise to Trumpelstiltskin, she had to go along with the things she said. America hear rumors that her friends didn’t like her as much, but since she believed that this was the only way she might ever become great again, she didn’t say anything.

While she was in the big white house, America had become sick. She used to be healthy and full of life, but recently, some diseases had taken over and made America very ill. Her doctor told her that she had some preexisting conditions that made some of her cells work against her.

“Your cells are like terrorists,” the doctor said. “You’ve always had them, but because you’ve neglected them for so long, they are not fighting against you. There have also been some foreign diseases that have terrorized your body. I think that both your internal cells, as well as the foreign diseases, are keeping you sick.”

The doctor left and America became very sad. How could her own cells fight against her, and why wasn’t her body figuring out why they were fighting against her and adjust so that she could become healthy again? She thought the best way to get healthy was to fix her internal issues, then she could figure out a way to combat those foreign diseases that might be troubling her. She fell asleep without a solution.

In the middle of the night, Trumpelstiltskin returned. She told him how sick she’d become, and how she hasn’t felt like herself in a long time. She used to be so happy and healthy, but then her body began to turn against her. Once again, Trumpelstiltskin promised he had the answer, and he’d fix her in exchange for not questioning his methods. Reluctantly, America agreed.

“Your problem,” Trumpelstiltskin explained, “isn’t that your cells are working against you. Most of your cells are great. The problem is those foreign diseases have been terrorizing you for years. Your cells and body are totally fine. The charts that doctor showed you were fake charts. And the results were fake results. The real issue is those foreign diseases.”

America shrugged, because if everything all of her doctors were ever showing her were fake charts with fake results, maybe it was the foreign diseases that were accounting for all of her issues. America looked out the window, and the gate around the big white house that used to have open doors and open gates, all of a sudden were closed. And on top of that, Trumpelstiltskin was building a huge wall around the gate so that no one else could come in.

“This will protect you,” Trumpelstiltskin said to America.

America wasn’t sure because she thought, surely someone can figure out a way to get around a wall if they really wanted to hurt her, but then she remembered she couldn’t question his methods and she also had to look the other way on anything he said or did. America was very confused and began questioning Trumpelstiltskin, but since she wasn’t able to think of any better solutions, she let him go about building his wall. After all, she couldn’t prove that the charts and tests weren’t fake charts and tests, so maybe Trumpelstiltskin was telling her the truth?

A few weeks had passed, and America was still sick and still didn’t feel great. She began wondering if she should have listened to Trumpelstiltskin in the first place. She liked the things he said to her a long time ago, but as soon as she agreed to let him make America great again, she couldn’t help but question just about everything he was doing. America began to get angry, both at herself and at Trumpelstiltskin. She knew that she had good inside of her, and that the only way she would fix herself and make herself great again was by her own actions, not the actions of someone who made promises but didn’t show any follow through. As her rage grew, Trumpelstiltskin appeared one last time.

“I know how you feel,” Trumpelstiltskin told America. “My whole life, people questioned the things I did, said, and tweeted. Then, I figured out that if you just keep saying things, whether they’re real or not, people will believe you. You just have to put down anyone who…”

As Trumpelstiltskin continued talking, America looked over his shoulder at the TV that showed some of her old friends crying because they couldn’t come and see her anymore. She saw the wall from her room in the big white house that was supposed to keep her safe, but she still felt sick and broken. She looked down at Trumpelstiltskin, who seemed much smaller than he did the first time he came to see her.

“…which is why you just need to give it time. You just have to believe me that we are making you great again and fixing all your problems.”

“I’ve always had issues,” America snapped. “I’ve always been a little broken, but the things that make me sick sometimes are also the things that give me the most strength. I might not be the best I’ve ever been, but the one thing I won’t do is change who I am because of it. I am at my best when I am supported by those who appreciate me for what I am and aren’t trying to change me to fit their idea of what I should be. I am America, and I will be great again, but not because you make me great. I will be great again because I have the strength to make it through times that appear to difficult to overcome. I will be great again because, at my core, I am passionate, driven, and willing to endure hardships because of my beliefs. It might not happen today or tomorrow, but I will be great again, and I don’t need you to show me how to do it.”

Trumpelstiltskin stood there and didn’t know how to react. Everything that he’d been telling America that seemed to have been working no longer worked. He screamed and pounded his fists and demanded that America listen to him, but it was too late. America had decided that she would be better off without Trumpelstiltskin after all, and the future seemed much brighter for her.

The end.