We are filled with punctures.  Our bodies are pretty adept at protecting the holes in us, but there is one particular hole that is more vulnerable than all the others put together and gender and stature and economic state have no bearing on the witness of that virtuous hole.


In my recent article — A Mouthful of Alzheimer’s — I made this remark in the comments about the mouth being “the perfect delivery system” —

I was thinking about this yesterday, and our mouths are our most vulnerable hole. We bring the world in through our lips. We get cuts and bacteria and viruses and that opening is close to our brains, so the pathogen route — through infected teeth and gums — provides a straight line into the being of us.

The mouth has a few protections: A strong jaw, pursed lips, hard teeth, thick saliva and a febrile tongue — but are those defenses enough if the mind is unkind?

We push pills and booze and fried food into that vulnerability without much thought about the repercussions when those foreign totems land and I wonder why so many of us are so cavalier when it comes to managing the protection of our mouths against the threat to the rest of our bodies.

Willa Cather describes the beauty of our throats as the first, most natural, instance of a universal vase — and that makes me ponder why we treat the mouth of that vessel so poorly — as if the dangers of life are nothing more than something to be chewed on and swallowed whole.

Rarely do we reverse the flow into our mouths and sometimes we need to realize there is value in the spitting and in the retching that actually protects the mind of the body from the folly of mouths held agape against the swirling invasions around us.

4 Comments

  1. There’s an expression that we have one mouth but two ears, signifying which we should use for communication more often – or something like that. It’s so easy to use the mouth to hurt – or just to have a good yell at someone.

  2. It’s astounding that no other part of our bodies harbor as many germs and bacteria in the magnitude that our mouth does! That is one of the primary reasons that your and my mothers were so adamant about us brushing and flossing our teeth as children. It is bacteria control! I remind my children often that Listerene mouthwash is just as important as brushing!
    Truthfully, not all of us are mindlessly just shoving non-beneficial products into this gaping hole. It’s really a matter of discipline and over all prevention. I do not drink alcohol of any kind! I’ve never drank liquor! I am probably the only one in my graduating class that has never been drunk. I limit sodas ( Here it’s called pop or coke ). I am not a big sweet eater! I don’t fry anything in a skillet or deep fryer of grease! If the public needs an eye opener on being mindful of ones health, because time is short, let them be present when someone is having a massive heart attack! It will definitely wake a person up to the realization that what we do to our bodies now … effects us drastically later on in life! It is crucial in that ultimately, it is a matter of life and death.
    No one ever thinks of the harm that tobacco products do beyond the second hand smoke and lung issue. I have seen young men whose gums were literally damaged and decaying from excessive use of tobacco products (snuff or chewing tobacco)! They had to be treated for gum ulcers. Anything placed in the mouth along the gum line is entering the blood stream directly which eventually travels to the brain! In spite of the surgeon generals warnings people go on as if they are invincible and are going to live forever. Our everyday habits may inadvertently be shortening our life span. Maybe we should be a little more conscientious about every aspect of our daily routines!

  3. Excellent warnings, Kimberley!
    You’re right that these bad habits are set early in childhood and if you can “grow up” without a sweet tooth to feed or a bad habit that will act upon you, your future elderly life will be much happier, smarter and healthier!