May 18, 2022
Do you remember the first dental patient for whom you helped make a significant transformation in their oral health? Can you recall the day they came to see you for their very first appointment? It is likely they hadn’t been to the dentist in several years. Maybe they came because they had dental pain, or maybe they were ready to make a change in their lives and better their health. Whatever the reason, they were in your chair. You examined this patient and listed off several disciplines of care they would need: periodontal therapy, oral surgery, operative, prosthodontics, etc. A lengthy treatment plan that would take several months to complete as the patient underwent a process of transformation.
Although I’ve been a dentist for four years, recently I finished a treatment plan similar to the one described above for the first time. This was the first patient I’ve seen commit to the process of transformation and make it all the way through their treatment plan. This treatment plan took about two years to complete due to finances and delays with the pandemic. This patient needed periodontal therapy, several extractions, fillings and a maxillary removable partial denture to replace all but four remaining maxillary teeth.
I remember handing the patient the mirror on the day we delivered her maxillary partial, completing her treatment plan. The patient was so giddy! She had an upcoming event planned for the weekend, and we had met our goal of completing the treatment before the event. As she looked at her reflection, she was amazed at the transformation she underwent to achieve a great esthetic outcome but, more importantly, a pain-free stable oral disposition.
Seeing that patient’s giddiness at her transformation led me to reflect on 2 Corinthians 3:14-18:
“…For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” [bolded for emphasis] (NKJV).
As Christians, we all go through a transformation. We often come to Christ broken and in pain from past experiences. We recognize our sinfulness, and in looking at our reflection in the mirror, we only see our fragmented selves. However, as we dedicate our lives to Jesus Christ, accepting His free gift to rescue us from our sin, we undergo a transformation to become more like Jesus. Now, when we look at our reflection, we no longer see our fragmented selves but a clearer image of Christ.
While I was thrilled to see the transformation my patient underwent, I had to tell her something very similar to what you might tell your patients. I admonished her to keep up with her oral hygiene at home and return often so we can help keep her in optimal oral health. Although she underwent this two-year transformation, it is very likely that if she does not keep up with her dental care, we will see her again in 10 years needing extensive dental work because she left her disease processes unchecked. This parallels our lives as believers, we don’t just undergo one big transformation from being a sinner to being saved. We should desire to continue to spend time with our heavenly Father often in order to stay in optimal spiritual health, preventing the disease of sin from festering in our lives unchecked so that we can be more like Jesus and less like us.
This truth is encapsulated well in the lyrics below from the song “Less of Me” by Zach Williams:
Oh, I have days I lose the fight
Try my best but just don’t get it right
Where I talk a talk that I don’t walk
And miss the moments right before my eyes
Yeah, there’s no denying I have changed
‘Cause I’ve been saved from who I used to be
But even at my best, I must confess
I still need help to see the way You see
Somebody with a hurt that I could have helped
Somebody with a hand that I could have held
When I just can’t see past myself
Lord, help me be
A little more like mercy, a little more like grace
A little more like kindness, goodness, love, and faith
A little more like patience, a little more like peace
A little more like Jesus, a little less like me
A little more of living everything I preach
A little more like Jesus, A little less like me