Board Certified Periodontist

46 – Benjamin Young’s Thoughts About Masks and Messages

Hi, Dr. Ben Young here and you are listening to the Perio Hygienist Podcast, a podcast for my professional colleagues and anyone else who cares to listen. I, along with many of you, practice in the beautiful city of San Antonio in the great state of Texas and I live nearby, but that location can drift a bit since I am a full-time Airstream Occupant as I have already shared with my patients on the other podcast.  

My Airstream is 25 feet long and is called a Flying Cloud. Airstreams have certain internal designs, color patterns and cabinetry and this is how they name their models. 

My inside design is with solid colors, nothing flowery, because I’m a guy, and I really like the fact that the upper cabinet doors so mine flip up and out of the way – so I don’t hit my head on things.  

It’s a great size for one, but add another, and unless you are just using it for its primary purpose of going on little trips — not living in the thing – like I do, I would suggest you look for one slightly bigger.  

So far I have lived longer than a few months in two locations, one south of the city and one to the west near one of my daughters and family that includes four grandsons. As I-10 north completes its build-out a bit more, I plan to spend some time up and around Boerne. 

And beyond where I stay more or less permanently, I take my home out camping on weekends here and there, most of these joining up with other Airstreamers at local rallies in about a 100 mile radius of San Antonio. It’s a lot of fun. 
Anyway, more about this in the other podcast.  

For some of you, this may be the first time you have listened to this podcast, so very briefly, so as not to bore the rest of you, this podcast is a communication link primarily between me and those who work around me in order to most efficiently share the care of periodontal patients. In other words, I believe that much of the treatment – especially when it comes to the management of treated periodontal patients – is best managed by dental hygienists, provided they are in tune with the treatment routines and protocols. This is why so many periodontal offices have their own dental hygienists – because it simplifies communication. But there is a downside to this, and that is that patients end up having to alternate care. Sometimes this is necessary because the patient’s particular situation really requires it – in this way, I as a periodontist can continue to provide care at a more efficient level – but much of the time, this is a convenience for the practitioners and not for the patient. I have been a general dentist in my past, and I understood my role back then – which has not changed – is the overall support of the patient’s dental health – which involves more than one specialty area much of the time. So as a general dentist, if I can have my patient back in my office, that is what I want. I want my specialists to support me as I need them to, but I prefer to manage the rest by myself. So for this reason, I started this podcast in order to talk with my professional colleagues, but dentists and dental hygienists, in order to smooth the transition back and forth and to enable patients to obtain effective care in either location. And what it extremely helpful to both dental hygienists and patients is to be able to talk with understanding about the treatment they have received in my office. I explain certain things to patients that are found, for example, on the home page of my website, in a video I call A Tooth Has Four Parts, which, if you take the time to watch it, give you the ability to review concepts the patient learned, and has likely forgotten, as they were under my care during the active therapy phase. This is called reinforcement – and when we are talking about chronic conditions, this is very important.  

Beyond this, I also use this podcast to talk about dentistry, dental hygiene, healthcare and everything, whether directly or indirectly, to what it is you and I do for a living.  

Which brings me to today’s topic I have entitled: Masks and Messages. 

Recently, a physician friend sent me a short You Tube clip of a physician in Orange County, California speaking at a County Commissioner’s meeting about masks and vaccinations. Rather than attempt to paraphrase, I thought I would simply replay his words.  

So let me play it for you and then give you a few of my own comments.  


My friend’s comment when he sent me the clip was that it was well thought out. I agree. When you have two minutes to speak, it helps focus your mind, and this doctor accomplished this very well.  

The general public has up to this point trusted the medical and dental profession – just as they have trusted the court system, the airline industry and the military. And yet, on every turn, they, which includes us as civilian citizens of this country, have discovered that there is a level of mendacity behind so much of what we are experiencing that it is hard to wrap our heads around.  

Now I have used the word, mendacity on purpose, because it is an unfamiliar word for many and for all of us, it is generally not used very much in conversations. So let me give you the definition: 

First, it is a noun. Its plural form is mendacities. 

Mendacious is its adjective. A mendacious person is someone who is telling lies, especially habitually. It is a level of dishonesty that is so common it appears normal.  

A mendacious report is false or untrue entirely.  

Mendacity is, to the people involved with it, a way of life. It is normal and justified because to them the end justifies the means.  

Now I get the use of the “white lie” that is the little fib intended not to hurt someone’s feeling. That isn’t what this is. We all lie at times – that may be true and it may be an argument to justify the use of untruths, but the risk is that this behaviour gets baked in. Those who practice this routinely, if you were to attempt to unravel it, would like find that underneath it all is something they believe worth protecting or defending.  

When it comes to wearing masks now in public, we all justify doing so at times, even when we may know that it is all theater – that it does not keep anyone safe. The problem for you and me now as professionals is that when we wear a mask in public, it is lending credibility to the wearing of masks – and if we do this, the only reason I think we would is to not rock the boat. The problem is that the boat we are not wanting to rock is set on a course to public complacency that is easily manipulated by the mendacious among us. I’m sorry I can’t trust the CDC – and if the ADA goes along, along with the AMA, I’m sorry I can’t trust them either. My hope, however, is that the real science, real facts will emerge. 

What to me is so interesting about the question of wearing or not wearing a mask in public, is that it is an easy decision and what I need to do is really so simple – and that is to not comply.  

If your dental office environment is still playing along with the mask thing, I suggest you rethink this and simply take them off except when working on patients as we have always done.  

Now let me shift this topic a little and explain why it is not a good idea to tear the mask off of someone else. 

It has to do with how people – including ourselves – change our minds.  

A while back I was in a meeting and heard a brief conversation between two others about why it is difficult to be married to an alcoholic – which both of them happened to be. I thought the answer was brilliant. The one told the other that in conversations with the spouse, it is often difficult to know who you are talking to – whether you are talking to the person or the shell – the shell being the barrier put up by – in this case – the addiction to alcohol.  

So I went off and begin to write about this idea about the true self and the barrier surrounding it – which I simply called the false self. This is what I wrote.  

A false self is a shell, a barrier, a wall that isolates and protects the true self or person. The false self is a defense mechanism for the wounded. The strongest ones began forming in childhood. If left in place too long without healing they harden and entrap the true self within. Over time the true self, the best person or personality that need expression and healthy relationships to grow and develop, are choked off and can be replaced completely by the false self shell. This results in the longevity of a really miserable person. In literature, the best example I can think of is Ebenezer Scrooge.  

Sadly it is not uncommon to discover you are living with a false self. It may be in someone else and the clue is a frustrating turn in the relationship where you are locked out. But what is even worse and more insidious is to discover it in yourself.  

Healing a false self only occurs from the inside never from the outside. The true self must melt the shell off by an act of the will and the power of the Holy Spirit. From the outside, the best we can do is pray and the only place we can pray from is our true selves. This means we must be aligned with God in our prayer life which requires that we constantly be engaged in having our own shells melted off.  

Now, back to how this applies to wearing masks or any other thing we believe in – on either side of the argument – I think it is important to understand that if we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of human beings – and sadly, there are those who do not – but they won’t tell you this – because they are inherently mendacious – we must respect their right to self-govern – which means we must respect their right to disagree with us.  

How we all must change, and actually do change all the time, fortunately is we are first given some information, or we discover something, that doesn’t sit with our current understanding or beliefs about things, we have to first take it inside and wrestle with it – this requires space – which also means, that sometimes the best thing anyone else can do is simply live their own beliefs in an open way and be able to adjust ourselves as new information comes to us – in other words, we influence most by modeling what it is we ourselves believe for ourselves – not to influence others necessarily or at all.  

So let’s say you are in an office and someone continues to want to wear a mask. Let them. Respect them, but don’t wear a mask yourself if you do not believe wearing one provides any protection and in fact might be harmful to your own health. And if the one who wears the mask demands that you also wear a mask and holds power over you, then this becomes the friction point where you must decide what it is you will do. If you comply, then expect to be bullied in the future. If you respectfully refuse to comply citing good evidence for your side of the argument, then your future will be one of self-rule – which may not necessarily continue in your current work environment, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  

This is where we are at the moment. At least we are not shooting guns at each other. This is a different kind of struggle and fortunately all it takes to win is to not comply with mendacious people.  

That’s it. Let me know what you think if you care to. Am I a radical crazy? Time will certainly tell. One thing is for certain, it won’t stay as it is. Changes are coming at a fast clip than I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. It’s an interesting ride – so hold on and stay positive. This too shall pass.  

Thank you for listening and I hope you will continue to think through what your actions ought to be for the sake of family, friends and patients. This has been the Perio Hygienist Podcast and I am still Dr. Ben Young. Bye for now.