What Does Your Toothbrush Say About You?


Recently, I went to see a periodontist. A what-o-dontist?! A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the supporting structures of the teeth, mainly gums. So, I’ve graduated to the special dentist who tells me I need a $900 “procedure” on my gum(s) because they’re receding. I’m pretty sure once the regular guy can no longer handle my problems, it means I’m getting old.

At the end of the examination, the very nice periodontist said something interesting: “I see women like you all the time. You brush too hard. You want your teeth to be really, really clean and your gums suffer for it.” I laughed nervously. Then I thought to myself, “Did he just say that I have an obsession with brushing my teeth. Really?” Then I said out loud, “Wait, are you saying that only women have this problem with obsessive teeth cleaning?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying. I don’t generally see men with this sort of problem.”

WELL! How dare he? But then, ever so slowly, pictures of my toothbrush began to appear in my head with bristles splayed in ever direction.  I run the thing ragged every month. I know it’s time to get a new one when I hear a squeaking noise while I brush, which basically means the edges of the toothbrush are no longer making contact with my teeth.

Other pictures appeared in my mind as well– my mistreated toothbrush next to Duane’s pristine, bristles-all-in-a-neat-row-even-after-months-of-use toothbrush. Okay, maybe this periodontist is on to something.

Since he got to make a blanket statement (from experience, mind you),  I will make one, too–I just won’t get paid $200/hr to say it. Why do we, as women, obsess so much? Why is it so hard to rest? Why do we want our houses so clean and brush our teeth so hard? In general–with exceptions, of course– women are more prone to anxiety and fear than men. We have a hard time doing nothing. I’ve heard countless women say things like: “I can’t just sit down and watch a movie. It feels like a waste of my time.” Furthermore, most of the people I know who don’t sleep well are…women. Why can’t we just relax?

Sure, society places many cultural impositions on women.  Don’t get me started. We’re supposed to weigh 90 pounds to look good in our clothes. When you have a baby, it should only take you 6 weeks to regain a perfect 6-pack a la Sarah Jessica Parker (I never had one in the first place). Our houses should look like the ones on the front cover of Better Homes and Garden. And, lest we forget, we define our liberation as women by our sexual prowess (I started, didn’t I?).

Society hands us a script for what women should be, but we have a choice to be defined by that script or not. We don’t have to prove ourselves through superficial means to be worth something. If your house is messy, great. Clean it up once in a while so your family can function, but it’s not a reflection of your worth. There are countless times I walk past the stairs with all of its little kid piles to be put away (some time in the next 6 months) and feel intense feelings of failure. REALLY? Is that the hill I’m going to die on?

The truth is I could have perfect stairs and be a size 2, but I could be forsaking what’s ultimately worth something: the people around me–my 4 beauties, my husband, my neighbors, and my community. The script that we live by will affect our relationships.

The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

Paul calls this love “the most excellent way.”

So, how do we begin to define ourselves by a different script? Consider the famous story of the woman at the well in John Chapter 4. The woman has had 5 husbands, she’s shunned by her community, and furthermore, Jewish men rarely socialized with women, certainly not with a Samaritan woman. But Jesus, king of breaking down social/cultural/economic/you-name-it barriers, approached her and talked to her. He knew that she defined herself by the love of a man, revealed by the fact that she’d married 5 times. And he knows that her community shunned her, which is why she’s drawing water from the well at a different time than everyone else.

But the script she’s living by isn’t the script Jesus offers her. He tells her, “Everyone who drinks this water [from the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give Him will never thirst.” Jesus is offering her true satisfaction that comes only from knowing Him–a freedom from seeking acceptance from things that are only passing away.

It’s been a whirlwind of a year for me to learn this truth. I’m not there yet. The call of the skinny, long-legged, fake blonde supermodel battles for my heart. Yet there WILL NEVER BE rest in that call–only a insatiable desire for more. But in Jesus, I have every spiritual blessing in Christ ALWAYS:

I’m loved, forgiven, chosen, adopted, redeemed, accepted, God’s possession, and for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1). That’s the script God wants you to rest in each day.

So, go and rest. Relax. Watch a movie. Laugh with your kids. Go out on a romantic date with your husband. Call your mother-in-law. Leave dishes in the sink sometimes. Play kickball. And for goodness’ sake, be kind to your toothbrush.

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  • Kelly

    One totally surface level response to this deep, thought-provoking post- I actually had that $900 procedure done last year. Just a graft on ONE measly tooth/ area of my gum, actually. But it was expensive. And didn’t really work. So that’s a big bummer.

    • Julie Davis

      Ooh, it didn’t work? Oh, no. What now?

      • Kelly

        Well I was supposed to have a follow up this summer so he could try to add a little more skin to the gum but I was 10 weeks pregnant so his hygienist just hugged me and said to come for the follow up once the babe was born. Haha.

  • Joel Ledbetter

    What a great script!

    • Julie Davis