Board Certified Periodontist

91 – On Gratitude

Hi and welcome or welcome back to The Perio Patient Podcast a podcast for my patients and anyone else who cares to listen. If this is your first episode, you have jumped in on number 91, which means there is a lot of earlier podcasts that I hope you will look through and listen to.

My focus for this podcast is about periodontal disease and management. It helps me get my information out in a way that doesn’t slow down patient care in the office. No one likes to wait for appointments. I’m the same way, and so I don’t want my patients, if at all possible, having to wait too long to see me. That’s the goal, anyway.

The one thing that can slow me down is to take the time to visit too long. So that’s why I use the podcast – to get out information and perhaps answer questions I receive from some of you when you come see me.

Also, I podcast to stay connected to patients and friends I no longer see routinely because they are now back with their family dental team as they should be.

So, from afar, I want you to know that I encourage you to stick with your dentist and dental hygienist or hygiene team. If there are problems I am always happy to see you, but in the meantime, you are in good hands.

Besides, if you remember the video A Tooth Has Four Parts, you are the appointment manager. You need to know where you are going and why. Stay involved and do your best to maintain a daily plaque control routine that is gentle. Nothing aggressive that can cause gum injury. If you injure the tissue, then it must not only manage the daily onslaught of bacteria but recover from the injury as well. It is best to be gentle and frequent over aggressive and occasional. And to just give you a real example, just a day or two ago I saw a patient for a reevaluation visit and supportive care – because we are still monitoring a few deeper sites. His bleeding index was half what it was nine months ago. He saw the other dental office six months ago and then the schedule got out of hand and he came back to me three months late. He informed me that he had switched to an extremely soft toothbrush that I recommended on our last visit. This reinforced two things. First, ultrasoft tooth brushes are effective at plaque control and second, they don’t injure the tissues.

Now keep in mind, daily plaque control, what you do every day, controls for health, it does not cure disease. In other words, if something begins to break down, it may be beyond your reach by brushing and flossing. Have this problem checked out. But if you are stable and consistent with your routine, not missing a day here and there, it is remarkable how effective you can be in maintaining a healthy mouth.

Now changing the subject.

Awhile back I attended a weekly combination AA/Al-anon meeting that has become a very comfortable place to be with people who have become good friends of mine. Yes this can happen with just one hour a week over enough time – and it occurs because the conversations are meaningful. They go deeper than the average friendly conversation. Now, by deep, I don’t mean necessarily all seriousness. There is a lot of laughter involved as well because we learn that we are safe to be who we are in front of others who are trustworthy to keep confidences.

Eventually, as we find our emotional wounds healing, we become strong enough to have the ability to be real and honest in the general public. We are no longer at the mercy of what others might be thinking or even saying that might have discouraged us earlier.

Unfortunately this is the dysfunctional behavior of so many relationships today – married people, parents and children, not to mention churches, neighborhoods, as well as in many working environments, even dental offices.

Toxic relationships are so common these days that most of us have begun to believe they are normal. Recovered people know better.

And as many of you know who have been reading my daily posts at, my objective, whether it is through practicing periodontics or writing and speaking, is to provide healthy encouragement. It comes out of my belief that people should be working on their own lives, but we all need input from the outside, because our thinking can often become distorted if it stays cooped up inside us too long.

Having said this, I am not a positive thinking adherent. I want to be aware of and engaged in current events, as difficult and frustrating as they may be (I’m thinking about the shooting in Uvalde at the moment), and I want to say connected with other living breathing people (more than just seeing them on Zoom) because this too is part of living a healthy meaningful life. I’m sure you can agree with me that a lot of life is anything but easy and the greatest temptation is to want to escape – to hide under the covers wishing the world and life were different than they are. Instead, I believe the abundant life, one filled with joy, peace, love, and all the rest, is lived smack dab in the middle of trials and tribulations.

So that is what I find myself mostly writing about. It’s both an aid to me and I hope it helps others – who I hope will at times pass it to others they think might benefit.

Which brings me back to my most recent meeting.

The topic was on Gratitude – and because it was so good (at least for me), I want to share with you about it here. It allows me, for one thing, to review and remind myself a second time some of the great information I received.

To begin, let’s reflect on the problem of having bad feelings.

How are you feeling right now? What is worrying or upsetting you today?

When it comes to bad feelings, there are many to choose from and each one has a range from mild to intense (or maddening). And we can blend them. We can mix concern with anger and then add a bit of self-distain.

Now it would be easy to state that gratitude is the cure for bad feelings and many aspects of mental illness but it isn’t true, so let’s consider reasons why first, before we then study gratitude seriously.

One reason trying to get others to be grateful for what they have, over unhappy for what they lack, has to do with chronicity. People who stay stuck too long with what may have begun as a mild case of guilt or worry, over time, these minor feelings can turn to cement. Bad feelings over time can harden into dower personalities. We can become comfortable living out of what we believe we know and what appears to be, even if not very good, at least predictable. We start thinking every day, “No surprise that today is just as bad as it was yesterday. Tomorrow, will be no different.” This is how hopelessness takes root and grows.

Now, having said this, if there is still a desire to change, even a hint of admission that what we are experiencing is still a problem to be addressed, not a curse to be endured, then reversing course and dramatically turning one’s life completely around is still a possibility.

OK. So now, let’s talk about the application of gratitude – what it is and how it works to cure us from the misery of dark thoughts.

To begin. Gratitude requires a life outside of me.

Perhaps this explains why people who walk into nature begin to feel better emotionally.

And also let me add, that one of the benefits of walking into nature is that it takes us away from the endless news cycle and all the negativities being poured into us from there.

It is seeing opened before us a beauty that we begin to want to reconnect to – and it pulls out of us the feeling of gratitude. Grateful to be here. Grateful to be alive. Grateful to be in nature and seeing how it thrives, despite my circumstances.

So gratitude, for it to be true, doesn’t work when it is directed back being grateful to myself.

Grateful people have learned to give their ego’s a rest.

Gratitude and humility go together. Anyone who bristles at the idea of humility and believes it to be a sign of weakness has trouble with true gratitude to others. Sure, we can all learn to thank people as a social behavior, but it will not warm us inside in the same way sincere gratefulness always does.

Finally, it takes true courage to admit a need. And we cannot admit needs without humility. And humility is needed to have true gratitude.

So now we have gone from gratitude to humility to courage. It begins by being grateful for everything we did not do for ourselves that has blessed our lives. And seasoned gratitude practitioners eventually come to the point where they can be grateful for their failures and losses because these helped soften and shape their characters – have helped them to become kinder and more patient with others who, like themselves, have struggled.

They become the kind of people with whom you would seek to spend an hour a week in a room talking about life.

That’s it for today. You have, believe it or not, been listening to the Perio Patient Podcast. I am still Dr. Ben Young. Thanks for listening.

What are the strongest days of the week? Saturday and Sunday, the rest are weekdays.