Over the last few weeks as I was trying to decide on a topic for my blog this month, I received a message from my friend Michael Morris of the Cloud City Casino podcast with a suggestion: Why not compare tooth decay to the Dark Side of the Force? It was a great idea and as a dentist I hope I can do it justice. If not, the Cloud City Administrator may revoke my license.
If we let down our oral hygiene guard the tooth decay process can start. It can be as simple as not brushing and flossing regularly, consuming too many sugary foods or acidic drinks, taking a new medication, or not visiting a dentist regularly. All of these are things that happen within our bodies or that we allow to happen to our bodies. This can be likened to a Jedi allowing thoughts to seep into their mind of using the Dark Side or letting someone else plant those thoughts. It’s not the worst thing in the galaxy, but if these thoughts are allowed to continue it could lead down a dark path that will forever dominate one’s destiny.
As a tooth becomes decalcified it becomes more prone to decay. In lay-gungan terms, a decalcification is a softening in the enamel of a tooth. If caught early enough and with improved oral hygiene and fluoride use, a decalcification can be arrested and not cause any further damage to a tooth. But if not, the damage will grow. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, just like a Jedi’s mind is usually his/her most powerful asset. And just like enamel can be decalcified, so can a Jedi’s mind be compromised by exploring the Dark Side. It may seem okay to try a Force choke once in while, but, if left unchecked, soon one Force choke turns into many, the Jedi is then trying more actions that many would consider unnatural, and before he knows it he has lightning shooting out of his fingertips.
If the tooth decalcification is not halted it will turn into tooth decay. At this point the tooth is still treatable and savable with a filling or crown, but the situation is a little more dire. Pain may begin. The tooth can be repaired, but it will never be quite as healthy and strong as before the restoration was placed, and it will probably be more vulnerable to decay in the future. Also, now it will need more care and attention in order to keep it healthy. It’s almost as if the Jedi just killed a camp of Tusken Raiders: he still isn’t beyond repair, but he will need a little more oversight going forward. The Dark Side clouds everything. The Jedi has seen how powerful his anger has made him, and he will probably be tempted to use it again. He may feel some emotional pain, and he is sometimes fueled by it. But it’s not like he lost a limb. Now that would be serious! Maybe taking on an apprentice would help reinforce the Light Side of the Force in him, but it could also leave him more vulnerable.
If decay isn’t removed and replaced with a filling or crown it will continue to spread and will eventually reach the pulp chamber (where nerves and blood vessels reside) of the tooth. Treatment options are limited now and pain is highly likely. Root canal treatment is usually the only effective treatment at this point if the tooth is to be saved. We haven’t much time and an abscess is a strong possibility. Depending on the depth of the decay, some dentists may even opt to just extract the tooth, because it may be a lost cause even after a root canal. The Jedi has committed to the Dark Side and is a full-fledged Sith Lord by now. The outlook is ominous and younglings may be killed. Some Jedi may even think that the new Sith Lord is beyond redemption and must be eliminated, but there is still good in him.
Some teeth get so decayed that there is no way to save them and they must be removed and possibly replaced. They are referred to as hopeless teeth. If the decay reaches the furcation (where the roots of posterior teeth split) or gets too far below the bone level there are no treatment options. Pain is fairly constant and expected. Teeth cannot be damaged and corrupted that much and be expected to be repaired and function effectively. The sugary foods, acidic drinks, and neglect were not balanced out by good oral hygiene and dentist visits, and the tooth is extracted. This severely decayed tooth can be compared to the Sith Master who has been overtaken by the Dark Side of the Force, thinks he has unlimited power, and doesn’t think he needs any intervention. The Sith Master thinks he controls the Dark Side of the Force, but he is actually consumed by it. His scarred body is painful and he feeds off of it. Eventually, the Dark Side leads to the Sith Master’s overconfidence in his own powers and underestimation of his enemy’s. The Sith Master is then killed. An extracted tooth can be replaced by an implant or removable denture: good options, but not as good as a natural, healthy tooth. A removed emperor is replaced by a supreme leader: a powerful position, but neither the emperor or supreme leader are nearly as powerful as our Jedi could have been if he hadn’t become slowly corrupted by the Dark Side.
So can Luke Skywalker be compared to the best dentist in the galaxy far, far away? Possibly (in my best Obi-Wan voice). He saved Darth Vader (a severely decayed tooth), who Obi-Wan and Yoda thought was beyond saving. Luke basically opted to perform root canal treatment with a guarded prognosis that ended up being successful, while Obi-Wan and Yoda thought an extraction was the only option. By saving Vader, Luke helped make it possible to eliminate Emperor Palpatine (a hopeless tooth). If only Luke could have helped Darth Maul and Palpatine with their oral hygiene issues.
Thanks again to Michael Morris from the Cloud City Casino podcast for suggesting this topic for me. Thanks for reading my blogs! Please contact me on Twitter @ryderwaldrondds, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and listen to me on the Idiot’s Array podcast. And remember:
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