My dental hygienist, Lena, always tells me, “You have bionic plaque, if there was ever any one who needs to floss, it’s you.” I always smile and nod and vow to do better, but the truth of the matter is that I’m not a diligent flosser and continue to pay the price for this sin of omission. On top of that, for years I’ve had a serious Ricola habit—I love to suck on a Ricola (the Swiss cough drops) when I practice and teach yoga. My favorite flavor is the herbal one, which has sugar in it. Years ago my friend Krishna Das told me how his long Ricola habit eventually resulted in four root canals. Recently I’ve made the switch to the sugar-free lemon flavor, but I continue to suffer the karmic effects from my past choices. Several months ago I lost a filling and when I went to the dentist to get it replaced, he noticed further decay in the tooth. After drilling out the new decay he said, “The decay has gotten close to the root, but it might be okay if we put a crown on it.” I opted for the crown and my dentist put it on with temporary cement just to make sure everything was okay before attaching it permanently. Months went by and everything was great until I was getting my teeth cleaned and the crown popped off. Then I remembered the temporary cement. The tooth was feeling fine so I had the crown put back on with permanent cement. A couple of weeks later—it was the day after the election—I woke up with pain in this tooth, which grew to enormous proportions in the next couple of days and eventually resulted in a root canal, right through my beautiful new crown.
Several months ago I was getting my teeth cleaned and Lena was checking the pockets in my gums. They had been holding pretty steady for years because I have been diligent about getting my teeth cleaned. All of a sudden Lena discovered an 11 millimeter pocket and said, “Oh no!” She explained that I probably had a root fracture that would probably lead to an infection, bone loss, and eventual oral surgery. Over the last several months I noticed a small abscess on my gum in this area from time to time. It was never large and painful and always drained by itself so I continued to put off dealing with the situation. This past Friday I suddenly developed a large and painful abscess near the afflicted tooth. I finally called the oral surgeon I’d been referred to months before and made an appointment to see him. He called in a prescription for an antibiotic to treat the infection and told me he could see me on Monday. When the abscess was at its worst I looked like a chipmunk storing enough nuts for the winter in one cheek. Over the next couple of days the antibiotics reduced the swelling and I looked normal enough to return to work on Monday. In my consult with the oral surgeon yesterday he took x-rays and concluded that the tooth would need to be extracted. I have that lovely procedure scheduled for tomorrow—just in time for the inauguration. As much as I would like to blame the problems with my teeth on Donald Trump, I need to accept responsibility for my actions and learn from them. As Patanjali says in Yoga Sutra 2.16: Heyam duhkham anagatam—“Future suffering should be avoided.”