What’s plaque got to do with it?

I have to admit that I’m a bit of a freak when it comes to the dentist.  You see, going to the dentist is quite an enjoyable pastime for me.  You wouldn’t think it would be, with what I endured as a child with an overcrowded mouth who was tortured with multiple tooth removals followed by 2 years of braces and plates to close all the gaps!  But what came out of that is an incredibly powerful ability to use my mind to escape on command to a blissful, tropical beach paradise.  It’s not that hard, really.  You put on the highly fashionable black shades, kick back in your banana lounge and bask in the radiant sunlight with your eyes closed, only mildly sensing the commotion around you as you detach from your mouth.  Suddenly the pool attendant hands you a glass of water and, oh – time to swish and spit…

So recently I had my annual dental checkup.  I just love my dental hygienist, Aurelia.  (And she really is an amazing hygeinist.)  So, as we catch up on each other’s news, she checks, cleans and polishes my teeth, and I try not to chew on her instruments too much.

Anyhow, Aurelia was scraping the plaque from those tricky places where plaque gets stuck.  It occurred to me that I was very happy, and I realised why.  I told Aurelia, “I love hearing the sound of you scraping those nasty calculus buildups from my teeth, because I know my teeth are becoming really clean.”  Ok, a little weird, I know, but my point is that I was enjoying the process of something that isn’t really enjoyable unto itself, but because of the outcome I knew would follow.  Clean healthy teeth = teeth for keeps, peeps.

That got me thinking: sometimes you have to get the plaque scraped off to keep things healthy.  Where else does this resonate in life?  Well, pretty much everywhere.

Now, there’s a big difference between reopening wounds that are trying to heal by continually picking at the scab, and scraping off unnecessary and unhelpful deposits that actually encourage and harbour festering little bacteria.  Wounds need to be left (and sometimes helped) to heal , but the equivalent of mouth barnacles that cause rot, decay and bad smells?  Uh-uh.  Get those suckers out of there.

So the question is, what kind of barnacles have you got in your personal life that might be causing festering below the surface?  Festering that can literally make us sick, physically or emotionally.


Because ruminating on our problems and the difficulties in our lives keeps us focused on them, and somehow perpetuating them too.

Because operating in a state of high anxiety (imminent implosion) or of excessive aggressive (imminent explosion) is detrimental to our mental health, our bodies, and our relationships.

Because feeling resentment over past hurts, life’s disappointments and how others have let us down keeps us in a victim frame of mind and actually holds us back from fulfilling our own dreams and from living in utter contentment (as opposed to utter contempt).

So, what to do?  Get to the emotional health dental-equivalent: a qualified, experienced counsellor who can help you to a) articulate what you feel and what is holding you back, b) help you find new ways to reframe past experiences, and c) set goals that YOU want, and plan the small, realistic steps you’ll take towards them.  Yes, shit happens.  Sometimes really horrible shit.  But we always come through it with added skills, knowledge and resources.  If you can’t undo the past, make it work for your future.

See my About page for some tips on finding the right counsellor for you.

And by the way, go to the dentist too.  It’s hard to feel good about anything with furry teeth. 😉