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Healthy smile, healthy life

The importance of dental health, beginning in childhood

It was a ritual. Many times, I didn’t know what was going on until my mother stopped the car in front of Dr. Roy’s office in downtown Ashland—and then I knew what was about to happen. Dr. Roy was my dentist when I was a child, and I was not the best patient. My mother knew that it would not be pleasant taking me and my brother for the routine cleaning and checkup, so she decided not to tell us in advance. 

As I got older, the baby teeth began to fall out and it was apparent that I needed orthodontic work. I will never forget the day that I had seven teeth pulled at once in preparation for the braces that I would soon receive. 

I walked into Dr. Roy’s office very apprehensive and pale, with sweaty palms. The best thing that happened that day was the anesthesia that was administered by the doctor. I don’t remember much more. When it was all over, my mouth was numb, and my father had to walk me gently to the car. 

Not long after that I received braces. My orthodontist said that my case was one of the worst he had ever seen. Lucky me. I would wear braces, headgear and retainers for most of my adolescent years. My parents sacrificed a great deal of time and money to give me the best smile that I could have. I appreciate those efforts. I still think of my parents and my crooked smile every time I brush my teeth. 

In Kentucky Living this month, we focus on dental health. There are many reasons for the sobering dental health statistics in Kentucky. I applaud the efforts of our universities and philanthropic groups that are making efforts to help Kentuckians improve not only their dental health but their overall health. 

I had a friend from another state who loved to tell me every joke he knew about Kentuckians without shoes and without teeth. In response, I said, “I will take the heart of every Kentuckian every day no matter how healthy they are. Kentuckians have the best hearts.” 

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