Specialist Dental Group has launched an on-going series of blog posts by our individual dental specialists. All views provided are the dentist’s own opinions and are posted on this blog as part of our on-going efforts to educate the public about dental issues and other matters of interest relating to dentistry and healthcare.
Growing up in Singapore is punctuated with certain milestone events that every child must go through. This year, my son (as well as us parents) will partake in the ritual known as the Primary School Leaving Examination or PSLE for short.
For those who are unfamiliar with this rite of passage, when a child reaches the ripe age of 12, he or she is tasked with a series of examinations towards the year end which would determine how his subsequent school years will (sort of) turn out
In the past, when a child takes this exam it was regarded as important but not a major event.
Nowadays, it has morphed into this earth shattering, life changing make or break event. Besides the child, parents are also sucked into the academic rat race and the days, weeks and months preceding this are filled with revisions and doing endless assessment papers.
You can imagine that with this constant barrage of school work that the stress levels mount. Eventually, the child simply feels that the monotony of the paper chase becomes a painful empty experience that drags on and on. That life has no meaning beyond attaining grades. We are always recollecting the past and running to the future.
This falls very much in line with some of the patients who are in long term pain either from chronic dental disease or Jaw joint problems. As a Prosthodontist, by the time I see them, the solution is not a simple quick fix as they have been in a state of long term chronic pain for years.
Chronic pain changes people. They feel trapped in an unending cycle of pain that is mind numbing. The days are a blur and there seems to be no end in sight. The past was something to yearn for and the future is bleak. In fact, because of the constant nature of both cases, one might think that that’s all there is in life, always looking back and ahead.
It is these 2 seemingly unrelated situations that have drawn me to the practice of mindfulness. So that besides finding solutions for the physical, one must also look to heal the mind and spirit.
Mindfulness according to “Psychology today”, is a state of active, open attention on the present. When one is mindful, one can observe one’s thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting one’s life pass by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
This practice was popularized and applied to Medicine by Jon Kabat-Zinn under his Mindfulness-Based Stress reduction (MBSR) program to treat the chronically ill. Till this day he still runs retreats on mindfulness to train people to develop a deeper awareness not only of oneself and his surroundings but to be present in every moment.
My personal experience with mindfulness is something that I feel I can not only pass on to my patients but to my child as well. It doesn’t mean we should stop what we’re doing and just stand still. It is a practice of acknowledging and accepting our current state and being present at each current moment. To let go of the past and also the future. It sounds bizarre, but the truth is we are only in one moment and that is the Now. All else is a distraction. Whatever we are doing, whether its studying, eating even being in discomfort, mindfulness can help change how we perceive things. I feel that this state of mind allows us to see things clearly and put things in perspective.
Only by practice will we ultimately break the unending cycle of pain. So go Google this online or ask a friend. Learn that even if things seem to be hopeless and empty that we can see things differently. Smell the roses and the fertilizer. There are possibilities and perhaps another way besides the one we are living in.
Dr Edwin Tan is a Dental Specialist in Prosthodontics with Specialist Dental Group®. He is also a Senior Adjunct Lecturer with the Department of Restorative Dentistry at the National University of Singapore. Dr Tan has a special interest in dental implants, crowns and aesthetic dentistry.