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Dr. Death’s List of Doom

A few years back, a dental school professor began his lecture in startling fashion. “There are 76 of you here today”, he stated, “and at some point, 18 of you will die of heart disease and its complications.”

               This captured the attention of my classmates and I, most of us in our mid-twenties and just beginning to marry and start families.

               “Sixteen of you will die from some form of cancer. Lung cancer is most likely, but some of you women may develop breast cancer. Men, you may develop prostate cancer, but colorectal cancer will also take out a few of you,” the professor continued.

               The old doctor presented these statements with no hint of emotion or care for our sensitive feelings. He just laid them out there dryly, as if they were facts and statistics. Which, of course, they were.

               “Five of you will die of unintentional injuries. It may be a motor vehicle accident, a fire, or accidental poisoning. It may be that you drown while boating with your friends. Five of you will die from a respiratory condition.”

               “Four of you will not recover from a stroke. Three will die from Alzheimer’s, and three will die from complications due to diabetes. If statistics hold true, two of you will die from influenza and pneumonia and two from kidney disease. At least one, if not two of you will commit suicide. The remainder will die from other causes such as a natural disaster, alcohol and drugs, or assault. Maybe you’ll get malaria or be hit by something falling from the sky.”

               “The good news is that most of you will live to 81 years of age. Most of you ladies, that is. Men, your life expectancy is 76, so you have about 50 years to do whatever it is you want to do.”

Fast-forward to Spring 2020. Thanks to COVID-19, we now have another concern to add to Dr. Death’s List of Doom. Depending on your point of view, COVID could be included in the “Influenza and Pneumonia” group but may also be at home in “Other Causes.” We’ll know in a few months where COVID-19 fits into our statistics and whether it will give the big boys a run for their money.

               In the meantime, we can control those things we can control, and leave the rest to God, the universe, or the powers that be. As it pertains to the most common causes of death, the main action we can take is to maintain a healthy body weight through proper diet and exercise, avoid smoking and alcohol, and refrain from risky behaviors. We can’t wash heart disease and cancer away or shut them out with a mask, but if we approach the other causes of death with the zeal in which we have challenged COVID-19, we have a fighting chance of arriving at 76 or 81, or 58 or 94 with no regrets.

               The mouth is the gateway to good health, and we stand ready to help you live the happy, healthy life you deserve. Call to schedule an appointment that could change your life!  

Michael D. Gillespie, DDS

Michael D. Gillespie, DDS