“Well, Katie, your teeth look great.” The dentist took off his face mask and sat back, then gingerly leaned forward to push the button on my chair so I could sit up as well. “Like I mentioned, you have a little gum recession on a few teeth, but your gums look generally healthy. You’ve been doing a good job cleaning!” He smiled.
“What?” I leaned forward ahead of my lifting chair and swung my legs over the side to face him. “Really?”
His smile broadened with a touch of confusion. “Are you suprised?”
More than surprised. I was astounded.
It wasn’t that I took bad care of my teeth. Even as a kid, I had never shirked brushing, unlike my sister, who mastered the art of wetting the toothbrush to fool Mom or Dad. For the first twenty-five years of my life, dentists had always liked me, despite my habits of drinking a daily Coke or RC and eating candy and ice cream with abandon. They couldn’t tell all that from looking at my teeth. By my mid-twenties, I’d only ever had one small cavity. Of course, I’d suffered through two sets of braces, but that was through no fault of my own.
After Peace Corps, I had traveled with Ron to visit his grandparents in Baltimore. His grandma was a delightful, sassy young soul who taught music in inner cities for decades and still wore her long white hair in pigtails. During our visit, she commented that when you’re old, you finally learn the importance of flossing your teeth and wish you had started much earlier. Gum disease can actually lead to heart problems, she explained. I followed her advice and added flossing to my nightly brushing ritual.
But despite all my diligence, a few years later something had started to change. Dentists started talking to me about gum disease, and chiding me as though I wasn’t taking good care of my teeth. My gums were swollen and red, and receding, a precursor to gum disease. Did I brush twice a day and floss once? Was I brushing and flossing properly? Each time, I protested that yes, I did all that, and I’d been flossing for years. The dental assistants would show me the proper techniques again, sometimes with concern but other times with what clearly felt like judgment. At their suggestion, I switched to an electric toothbrush. Still my problems continued.
It was vexing to hear bad news every time I went to the dentist, but over the years I became used to it. Nowadays, in my mid-thirties, trips to the dentist always filled me with a touch of dread. I remembered my days as a straight-A patient, and knew I had always done everything right. Why were my gums so unhealthy?
(It didn’t help that Ron had perfect teeth, had never needed braces, never had cavities, and rarely flossed, yet dentists consistently told him his teeth looked “great.”)
“It must be my diet,” I breathed. It had to be. Thinking aloud, I excitedly described how I’d been eating almost no sugar for the past several months, and no dairy. Although I had eaten a lot of meat on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet in the spring, by now, on macrobiotics, I hadn’t eaten red meat for months.
I was on an anti-inflammatory diet, and lo and behold, my gums were not inflamed.
The dentist didn’t seem surprised. He cheerfully sent me home, saying he’d just keep an eye on my gum recession over the next couple years–perhaps it was leftover from some previous problem.
I couldn’t wait to tell Ron about my restored status.
This was just the latest piece of evidence that macrobiotics was good for my body. My BMs and energy had plateaued over the last couple months, but were better than previously. I had lately been struggling with a cough and fever that came and went, but that seemed like just a run-of-the-mill winter ailment. Overall, my colon and body were definitely doing better than in the past year.
In fact, in one way, my digestion was actually even better than before colitis: I had far less gas. It had taken a while to notice this–at some point, on macrobiotics, I had realized that I wasn’t feeling bloated and gassy after eating. Those symptoms had been so common, for so long, that I didn’t think of them as symptoms or even notice them at all. I just assumed everyone had them. Now, though, I noticed their absence. They must have been caused by something I had been eating prior to macrobiotics: dairy, meat, sugar…? Had I, in fact, been lactose intolerant and just never known? Going about my days without any gas or bloating, I realized that I had often been uncomfortable, for many years. Apparently my gut wasn’t as “iron” as I had thought.
And now there was this welcome news about my teeth. My body was definitely telling me I was on the right track.