a few weeks ago i took my youngest daughter to the dentist. she had a cavity filled, and it all seemed rather routine. these days they put numbing gel around the tooth to be filled (a blessed change from when i had cavities filled as a child, but that’s another post altogether…), but it was the regular progression of squirting water, drilling, sucking up water, filling goop, smoothing goop, etc. as we left, they gave us the dental goodie bag of toothbrush, floss, etc., which didn’t strike me at all as odd either, until i got home and realized that inside the bag was an information sheet about the filling material they had used.

it was from 3M and it was telling me about the wondrous material they used! infused with fluoride! mixed right into the compound! then it gave some info about not brushing teeth for a certain length of time, and how the teeth might feel sticky or some such, blah blah blah… but i was just like, hold the phone…  they just put a neurotoxin into my daughter’s mouth without my consent.

should i say that again?

yes, folks. fluoride is a neurotoxin.

but i’ll do you one better.

it’s not even proven to reduce cavities or produce better dental health. in all the years since they’ve forced it into our drinking water, the rate of cavities has not gone down.

now, you could argue that this is due to a number of factors, and you may be right on all those fronts, but the bottom line is this:

it is for sure neuro-toxic.

it is not for sure dental-health-promoting.

and even if it was, wouldn’t it be kind of prudent to ask a parent if they want that in their child’s mouth?

but the dentists go to dental school and they are trained that fluoride is a great thing and they just ride that train. so it literally doesn’t even occur to them that it’s something they should ask you about. like maybe it’s something you might object to. and that just blew me out of the water.

item #2. i’m gonna paraphrase this conversation, but not by much:

i took another daughter to a different dentist. this dentist is used to treating adults (the other was a special pediatric dentist). he asked me when i was going to have my daughter’s wisdom teeth taken out.

why, i asked, are they causing problems?

well, no. not yet. but they might…

ok. but they aren’t now. so why would i have them taken out?

well, they could in the future. so wouldn’t you want to avoid that and just have them taken out before they can become symptomatic?

um, by “symptomatic” what exactly do you mean?

well, they could become infected! (how dare you question me!)

ok, and if they would become infected, would that be dangerous in some way?

well then she would have to take antibiotics. and then the teeth would have to come out. (his patience was wearing thin.)

ok, so by waiting we may have to have a course of antibiotics. and we may have to have the teeth out. or maybe they will never cause her problems at all. so all i am really risking is a possible course of antibiotics at a later date?

well, and the discomfort it would cause her! (he was starting to get really uncomfortable and indignant by now.)

right. but if she gets her wisdom teeth out, that will for sure cause her discomfort. so i am basically weighing a 100% risk of discomfort to her now against a possible risk of discomfort to her at a later date. am i missing anything?

well…well…nobody has ever put it to me quite like that before…i think you had better consult with the oral surgeon just to be on the safe side…

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ok, so if these were just 2 isolated examples, i would just laugh them off, but i feel like i am constantly having a variation of this same conversation. i have had it over vaccinations. i have had it over food products. i have had it over other things we have been interested in buying where i have asked logical questions and been treated like a lunatic just because nobody has ever asked those questions before.

back when i used to teach, i would tell my students that if they had a question they should ask it because chances are that other people had the same exact question but they were too embarrassed to ask it.

i don’t know if it is cultural or what, but it seems that our way to deal with questions we don’t have good answers for is to shame the person who asked. rather than admit we don’t know, or that we never thought of something, we humiliate the person with the question so that others are too cowed into submission to dare to speak up with their own questions. and then everyone just slunks around with their heads bowed and quietly takes what’s shoveled out to them and assumed that their questions are stupid and that they are broken and not that the system around them is flawed.

but it isn’t so!

it is so SO often that the emperor has no clothes!

i really believe that the future belongs to those who have the courage to speak up about what they see.

it’s a sad state of affairs when we have to question everything we are taught, but that’s really what things have come to.

when i was in middle school we wore a pin that said “question authority”, and i remember years later thinking how stupidly bratty that was. like it was such a dumb stand to question authority just for the sake of being uppity.

but now i feel like there is a reason to question authority. there is case after case where they feed us B.S. simply because they’ve made a public statement to one extent or another and then they must stick to that even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. our government, and many people in positions of power, have become so inherently untrustworthy that i am exhausted trying to just think for myself.

and i’m not being funny.

not at all.

i feel like every bit of information that comes my way has to be scrutinized and it can be crazy-making.

is it logical?

does it jibe with what i know to be true?

is it rational?

does it work with my values or against them?

and i’m constantly making judgments that may not be mainstream or popular.

but i am content in my own skin.

and i can sleep at night.

and i don’t have cognitive dissonance. (or at least i try to minimize it…)

and i try to surround myself with people who respect me for my beliefs, eclectic though they may be…

and i do my best to stay educated.

and i try to be an informed consumer.

so what do you do?

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