I had my regular six month check-up at the dentist today. Nothing unusual about that. Most of us do this, Christian Scientists included (dental care is OK with Christian Scientists, by the way, but don’t you dare go to a medical doctor). However, I’ve had a bit of what I’d best describe as odd sensations in one of two teeth I recently had crowned. It wasn’t anything that raised an alarm with me (no searing pain or anything), so knowing I had a check-up coming soon, I just dismissed it as nothing to worry much about, and just to mention it at my check-up. Also, I think it’s some residual effects of my time in Christian Science that I tend to diminish any odd physical symptoms, and only respond to something that seems on the surface to be more serious (ie. accompanied by severe pain or other extreme discomfort, or scary rash).
Well, it turns out I shouldn’t have ignored it. I have an abscess, and will eventually need to get a root canal on the tooth in question. Fortunately it isn’t serious, we’ve caught it early, but it kind of worries me that this could have gotten more serious if I hadn’t been due for my usual check-up so close to when these symptoms first arose. I honestly didn’t think I was dealing with anything all that serious, and I feel mindful of not being one of those who runs to the doctor at every weird sniffle. The hygienist, however, assured me that I shouldn’t be worried about calling them if I have even what I think is a minor concern. They’d rather deal with a minor problem than something that’s become major. Either way, a root canal would have been in my future, it’s just fortunate that I’m not dealing with a more serious infection.
So, now I’m on antibiotics for the abscess, and the root canal will follow once the infection is cleared up in a few weeks. As I went to get the prescription for the antibiotics filled, I wondered what I would have done had I received this news as a Christian Scientist, or more accurately if I had been a radical Christian Scientist. Since I never was a radical Christian Scientist, I know that I would have gone ahead and filled the prescription and also gone ahead with the root canal. Dental care has never been an issue with me or my family, and I’ve always had good regular dental care throughout my life, even including oral surgery when I was a teenager.
However, a truly radical Christian Scientist, even one who does go to the dentist, will often draw the line at prescribed medications or anything that begins to smack at all of surgical or medical care, and I knew some who wouldn’t always get teeth filled, electing to pray instead–some were apparently healed. I wondered how the abscess I have would react to prayer (they showed it to me, it was quite obvious in appearance, and undeniable as to what it was). A truly radical Christian Scientist would likely eschew the antibiotics and pray about the abscess, but may or may not do the root canal (that depends on the person). The thought of what course the abscess could eventually follow if I didn’t do anything about it scares me. These things can get ugly–I’ve seen it in some of the street folks who are clients at my workplace. In many of those cases, it’s lack of access to good care and/or mental illness that keeps them out of the dentist’s chair. With Christian Scientists, well, maybe it is a kind of mental illness. Christian Science, as anyone who’s read this blog or talked to other former Christian Scientists will quickly realize, makes otherwise seemingly rational sane people do some straight-up stupid things–all too often with tragic consequences. I sometimes wonder if Christian Science, or for that matter all or most radical religious adherence is a form of mental illness. I won’t go much into that subject here, but if you want to read more, I recommend the blog Understanding Mortal Mind by a fellow ex-Christian Scientist blogger. She has a number of excellent posts that address mental health and how it relates to Christian Science.
These kinds of “what if” thoughts often pop into my head as I deal with what to most people are routine physical issues. I also deal with chronic asthma that was recently diagnosed, and am on regular medications for that, as well as allergies. As a Christian Scientist, I would not have readily sought treatment for the asthma or allergies, and would have kept suffering. Now, I treat it, and am doing great. I also feel good knowing that the abscess in my tooth will also be dealt with quickly and effectively. But, it’s still one of those legacies of Christian Science that cause me to wonder, “what if…”.