Springingtiger's Blog


The Old Woman’s Tooth

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There was once a very old woman who had only one tooth in her very old head. When she smiled she upset people. Her family tried to persuade her to have the tooth removed and have dentures fitted, but she refused. She always protested that when a body lost all its teeth it knew it was time to die and so, even though she had only one, she was going to keep her tooth. Inevitably the day came when the old woman’s last remaining old tooth fell from her old head. She stopped eating and died within the week.

Had she not believed that losing all her teeth indicated it was time to die, would she have lived? Is it true that the body is genetically programmed to die when all its teeth are gone? Is it natural to live with dentures and do they disturb the natural order? Does any of this matter?

What if it were true that the body is genetically programmed to die when its teeth are all gone? Some people begrudge the time they spend on brushing their teeth in the morning and at night. Four minutes lost from a busy day, four minutes they would not begrudge their television or mobile phone. Why begrudge their teeth? Whatever the truth of it I prefer to call my time brushing teeth not a waste, but rather, an investment in longevity. (I’ll look a bit silly if I get run over by a bus this afternoon, but at least my teeth and underpants will be clean….Underpants? That’s another story)

We all have beliefs about old age, many of them founded on arbitrary factors like legal retirement ages and the longevity of our forbears, perhaps even losing our teeth. What do you believe about growing old, and will die when you believe you should or when you choose to? At least I’m not going to let my teeth decide for me.

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