Friday, September 4, 2015
Dental Care, Obesity and Many Other Things
If I were to tell people that if they don’t take care of their teeth they would get cavities and gum disease, I would get very little argument. Behavior has consequences. Sometimes behaviors include those of omission.
But suppose a large number of Americans, more than half, started neglecting their teeth. How would we handle it? Would the news media identify this as a crisis, as a dental care epidemic? Would the White House and the corporations get involved with public service campaigns, image advertising and start recommending or requiring changes to school scheduling to include mandatory tooth brushing breaks during the day, taking local control of the curriculum away? Would those employers who provide dental insurance feel like they must set up in-house programs to encourage oral hygiene? Would these programs make the news and would we see those companies as good citizens for doing so?
How would the people react as their teeth began to fall out? “I just don’t have time to brush and floss. With my job and the kids and my club and vacation planning and chores and social obligations, I just don’t have the time! I hardly have time to sleep without trying to add another activity.”
Would Dr. Oz and other television doctors (and dentists?) feature programs showing magic formulas or miracle pills or herbal remedies – no effort or sacrifice needed to achieve better teeth – with a new secret every week? Would people writing books about teeth be on the best-seller list with conflicting advice, but each with a celebrity spokesperson attesting to the results of the program? When the health reports came on the local news programs would they tell us that scientists say if we don’t take care of our teeth we will get cavities and gum disease (even though we should already know it)?
Would other scientists publish studies finding that some people are genetically more susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease? It’s not their fault it’s in their genes. Would advocates come along with evidence that some people are addicted to not brushing? How about those young girls with rotten teeth who, instead of making a healthy change, announce their “pride” and that gum disease is beautiful?
Finally, would anyone be surprised that the habits of the parents are reflected in those of their children?
All that seems pretty far-fetched and ridiculous for a societal problem/crisis/epidemic that everyone could easily solve with better individual behavior. Doesn’t it?