In her little prayer book Grace on the Go, Barbara Bartocci mentions a dentist who said: "Every day has two important things: floss and pray." She took this lesson to heart and since then has used flossing and brushing her teeth as a time to ask for the grace to speak words of kindness and love. Although I have a disciplined and rewarding prayer life, I have not fared so well with regular care for my teeth and gums.

It all started when I was 12. My dentist said I had too many teeth for my small jaw and so I had some removed at the hospital. After this dramatic intervention, he decided to straighten my crooked teeth with his own unique system of braces. Although I did not appreciate the pain involved, I definitely looked forward to each visit in order to see the dentist's beautiful receptionist whose cheerful smile lit up the dreary office.

Much to my shock and dismay, the dentist walked out on his wife, his children, and his practice and moved to the Caribbean with his receptionist. Afterwards, no one could figure out what he was doing to my teeth! And so to this day, cleaning over and around my still crooked teeth is a challenge. Whereas I brush once a day with my electric toothbrush, I have been told to brush at least twice a day. I prefer tending to my gums with a rubber tipped instrument but have been ordered to floss three times a day instead.

Considering all the time and energy I already expend on my teeth, I am grateful that I haven't had many cavities, and I don't grind my teeth at night. I don't drink tea or coffee so have no stains and have not bothered with treatments to whiten my teeth. I plan on keeping these teeth for the rest of my life. My parents both kept theirs but it cost them an arm and a leg to do so with no dental insurance.

Meanwhile, I am thankful that my crooked teeth have become a spiritual teacher for me, prodding me to greater discipline and perseverance. Now pardon me, it's time to floss and pray.

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