friday faves - on god and good teeth

Just after sitting down in a booth with my husband over a cup of coffee and a ridiculously fresh Boston cream donut, I found myself reclined in a dentist’s chair, my tongue still covered in that gritty-greasy film that a good donut leaves you with.

Between swabs of gel anesthesia, needles full of novocaine, sharp and shiny stainless steel instruments and rubber-gloved fingers all poking around in my mouth, I had a pseudo conversation about my disabled son.

After telling him a little bit about Calvin, the hygienist, a handsome, kind, funny guy, asked how Calvin reacted at the dentist. I told him that he did pretty well all in all. He mentioned that in college he’d written a paper about the dental health of mentally retarded people (inspired by his girlfriend at the time who had been working with the intellectually disabled.) He explained that he’d read papers about how this segment of the population was missing an enzyme that caused tooth decay, so although they had great trouble with tartar forming on their teeth, they didn’t get cavities. He went on to say something like, “It’s the good Lord’s design”—that God had given these kids cavity protection by designing their bodies is such a way as to avoid them. He explained how, being a religious man, he believed it. With a suction hose in my numb mouth I mumbled, “I don’t,” and we both laughed. What else was there to do?

My head was reeling, though not from the anesthesia or the bright light spotted on my face. Why would God go to all the trouble to protect these kids’ teeth but do nothing to protect their brains? And I don’t buy the line that God works in mysterious ways so we can’t always know or understand his plan. What kind of divine plan, or its maker, includes debilitated, suffering, and terminally ill little kids and their families? Not one that I can believe in.

I remember a fellow alumnus from my high school, upon hearing that Calvin was generally a happy little kid, telling me how God creates these mentally disabled kids with sweet dispositions just to make the road a little easier. Well, if I believed in that God I’d say He’d stopped way short of His potential.

Meaning no disrespect to the devout and their own private beliefs, or to the affable hygienist who I can imagine calling my friend, sometimes I think I’d prefer being stabbed in the gums with a sharp instrument over hearing theories of how my kid, and others like him, was intentionally designed by a supposedly all-loving, omnipotent Creator, to live a life of suffering.

Originally published August 2012.


  1. I AM a Christian and I must admit that I have trouble with this one myself. I just wrote a rant about it. If you are interested in reading it you can here http://www.faithfulmomof9.com/im-having-trouble-understanding-how-my-daughters-disabilities-glorify-god/

    Apparently, It's all my fault according to one person whose response was that I just didn't have enough faith for Bethany to be healed. I need to ignore all the symptoms of the past 13 years and start speaking and thinking positively and claim that she isn't sick or disabled and she will be normal! Talk about kicking someone when they're down!

  2. Hallelujah. Here's my son Oliver's (age eleven at the time) take on it: http://elizabethaquino.blogspot.com/2012/12/oliver-sandy-and-blessed-virgin-mary.html