Dr. Luke and Cavities

Or What Dr. Luke has to Say about Cavities

Jason was a middle school teacher in a small city. He was 30 years old, and he and his wife had a 4-year-old son and lived in a comfortable, small apartment close to his school.

Jason always looked forward to coming home and enjoying the evening meal with his family, but lately he noticed he was having pain in his jaw when he ate certain foods. He also noticed that when he sipped his hot tea in the morning, he felt the same kind of pain. Sometimes he would not feel the pain for several days, but it always came back, and it seemed to be getting worse.

Soon, Jason did not look forward to eating or drinking because of the pain. One day he was looking at his teeth in a mirror and he thought the pain seemed to be coming from a black hole in one of his back teeth. He had been feeling the hole for almost a year, but he ignored it because until now it didnít hurt.

Jason started to feel afraid and a little depressed because the pain was getting worse, and he didnít think he could afford to go to a dentist. "What good is life if I have pain all the time and I canít enjoy my food," he wondered. Would I still be able to provide for my family and be a good father and husband?

Sometimes he would take some pain medicine but it didnít seem to stop the toothache for very long.

Then one day, Jason learned there would be a small group of doctors and dentists from another country visiting his school. His principal said he should try to identify some students who were having toothaches so they could see the dentist.

When the day came for the first dental clinic that was set up in one of the school offices, Jason took some students to the dentist. The dentistís name was Dr. John, and he and Jason were introduced.

At first Jason was a little afraid of the whole situation, as he looked around and saw the strange dental instruments and equipment that had been set up. But he liked Dr. John right away. Dr. John explained that there would be no fees charged for any dental treatment and that he travelled to their school from a long distance. He said he worked for an organization that provided free dental services as a way to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and show love for other people.

Jason felt encouraged for the first time since his toothache had started, and he asked Dr. John if he would look at his teeth. He explained about the pain he was having and that it was getting worse.

Jason was a little nervous but Dr. John and his dental assistant were very kind and gentle, and put him at ease. Dr. John explained he was going to do a few tests to determine the problem. He blew some air on Jasonís teeth and tapped on some teeth until he found the one that was causing the pain.

Dr. John explained that Jason had a cavity in the painful tooth. A cavity, also known as dental caries, is a bacterial infection that eats away the tooth until it hits the nerve inside the tooth. When that happens, it can be very painful and also cause an infection that spreads into the jaw.

Dr. John told Jason that the cavity in the tooth had gotten so large that the tooth could not be fixed, and it would be best to remove the tooth, and then the pain would be gone. He also told Jason that he was very fortunate that the infection had not spread further into his jaw.

"Jason, I am sure that the Lord God has put us together at this very moment so you can be spared a severe dental infection," Dr. John told Jason. "I think God also arranged this situation so we can tell you some good news, about how your life can have real meaning, and how you and your family can be assured of salvation in Jesus Christ. But first, letís take care of your toothache."

Dr. Johnís assistant took Jasonís blood pressure and told him it was a little high, but they would still be able to do the dental procedure. Dr. John explained that being in pain all the time can make your blood pressure go up, and that can be dangerous for your heart. He recommended Jason also see the medical doctor later to be sure Jason didnít have any heart disease.

The dental assistant put some numbing jelly on the skin inside of Jasonís cheek near the bad tooth. After a minute or so, the inside of Jasonís mouth felt numb and Dr. John then gave Jason an injection of Lidocaine to numb the bad tooth. Jason was surprised that he did not feel the sting of the needle during the injection.

Dr. John said it would take about 10 minutes for the tooth to get numb enough to be able to pull it out. While they waited, Jason thanked Dr. John. Jason said the toothache had made him fearful about the future. He said he had heard about Jesus but had never really talked to any Christians before.

Dr. John then told Jason about a story in the Bible, from Acts Chapter 16. Paul, one of the first Christians, and his friend had been put in prison. They were probably afraid, but instead of letting their fear control them, they started to pray to God and sing songs of praises to Jesus Christ while they sat there in there chains.

Suddenly, there was an earthquake, the prison was shaken, the doors were open, and the prisonersí chains were broken.

The prison guard became very fearful. He was going to kill himself because he thought the prisoners were going to escape, but Paul stopped him.

"What must I do to be saved?" the jailer asked.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household," Paul answered.

The jailer was probably not a bad man, he was just doing his job. But he realized at that moment there was a greater power in this world. Sometimes it takes a major event, like an earthquake or even a toothache, to make us realize we need God, and salvation by His son, Jesus Christ.

Dr. John said this to Jason: "Jason, I know you are a good man, but the Bible teaches that every single human being is born with a body that will eventually decay and die, like your tooth. We are also born with spiritual imperfection called sin, every one of us, and even if we are good people we can never be good enough to stand before a perfect and holy God after we die."

He explained that the only solution for this problem was for God to send Jesus Christ to die in our place, and if we believe that Jesus died for us, then our sins are forgiven and we can look forward to eternal life with Him, even after our bodies die.

John Chapter 3:16 says: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

This all sounded very strange to Jason, but it also seemed wonderful and something in his heart told him he was hearing the truth. Later, he would realize it was the Holy Spirit working in his heart to bring him salvation.

By this time, the whole side of Jasonís face felt completely numb, it was very weird. Dr. John tapped really hard on Jasonís bad tooth, and Jason could feel nothing!

"OK, Jason, Iím going to start wiggling your tooth out, you shouldnít feel anything." He told Jason that if it hurt, he should raise his hand and he would stop. But all Jason felt was some mild pressure as Dr. John used his instrument to get the tooth loose, and in about a minute it was out.

Then he put some cotton gauze in the empty tooth socket, and that was it!

They gave Jason some pain medicine and gave him some other instructions about how to take care of the area until it healed.

Dr. John also explained to Jason that he had a few other cavities in his teeth that could be fixed before they became painful. He encouraged Jason to find a dentist in the city who could take some x-rays, which would show where the cavities are and how big they are.

They also gave Jason 3 toothbrushes, for him and his family, and also some toothpaste and dental floss. Dr. Johnís assistant talked to him about how to prevent cavities.

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that most people have in their mouths. But it only becomes active and starts causing damage to the teeth under certain conditions.

The two worst things for your teeth are sugar and acid. If you drink a lot of soft drinks, or flavored waters, or coffee/tea with a lot of sugar, you are giving the bacteria a chance to become active and cause the cavities. Even sugar-free or diet sodas are high in acid and can cause cavities. The best thing to drink is water!

When women become pregnant and have "morning sickness," there is a lot of acid in their mouths and this can also cause cavities. Or if you get a lot of "acid indigestion" from food, or have acid reflux, you are also at risk for cavities.

Children who are allowed to eat a lot of candy or soda, and infants who are given "pacifiers" soaked in something sugary, are at high risk for getting cavities.

People who take some very common prescription drugs, such as for high blood pressure, depression, and many other medical conditions, can get dry mouth as a side effect. Since our natural saliva is Godís way of helping us fight cavities, a dry mouth can put you at greater risk for getting decay in your teeth.

So a healthy diet and lifestyle is one of the best ways to avoid getting cavities.

Also, going to the dentist every 6 months is important because the dentist can find cavities when they are small and easy to fix, with fillings. Or, if the cavity has become larger, the dentist may need to do a root canal to remove the nerve from the tooth, and put a crown over the tooth.

Very often, tooth decay does not cause pain until the cavity has become very large, as in Jasonís case, and at that point it may be too late to save the tooth. In the worst case, the infection could spread into the jaw and cause swelling that requires antibiotics and even going to the hospital.

Flossing and brushing teeth daily will clean away the food particles that contain bacteria that clings to the teeth and can cause the cavities to form. The floss removes the bacteria from in between the teeth, which is a very common place for cavities to form and then grow larger.

Jason went home that day feeling good for the first time in months, because he had no pain. But mostly, he no longer felt fearful about the future. He had been given some good information about how to prevent another toothache. And he now realized that there is an almighty God who cares about him and wants good things for him.

A few days later, Jason invited Dr. John and some members of his team to his home. They prayed to the Lord for Jason and his family, had a meal and good fellowship.

Dr. John read more Bible verses, including Romans 10:9, "That if you confess with your heart that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

Jason and his wife said they did believe this good news in their heart, and they confessed with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and savior.

Over time, Jason came to realize that this fortunate turn of events Ė the healing of his toothache, and learning the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ Ė were acts of grace from God. There was nothing he had done to deserve this good fortune. He could have been like millions of other people who go through life and never hear about Jesus, or maybe hear about Him but never come to know Him. But for some reason, God had chosen him and his family. He did not totally understand this, but he accepted it, and rejoiced in it.

Jason learned that he could never be perfect enough for God, except in Christ Jesus. His response to this wonderful gift of grace was to try to live for Christ and follow the guidelines for a Christian life that are outlined in Paulís letters to the churches in the Bible. He joined with a small group of other Christians in his community so he could learn more about Godís plan and have fellowship with other believers.

Jason also learned that being a Christian did not guarantee life would be free from pain, sorrow and other human concerns. But he knew that in all things, Christ would strengthen him, and so he didnít worry as much.

Above all, he was assured that at the end of his life, he would stand accepted before God and he could look forward to an eternity with Christ.