I was tolerating my periodic teeth cleaning when June, in Dr. Mosal’s office, uttered “uh oh.” Not a good sign.
Sure enough, my bottom left molar’s 30-year-old root canal had become reinfected. I recalled with dread the gingival flap surgery five years ago.
Wikipedia defines this as “a procedure in which the gums are separated from the teeth and folded back temporarily to allow a dentist to reach the root of the tooth and the bone.” I recalled it as a painful bloody mess followed by days of aching pain.
A week later, minutes after some tooth poking, periodontist Dr. Reid Lester told me some amazing news. Turns out technology is advancing. Instead of slicing my gums open with a knife, he can now shoot a tiny laser beam around the tooth with an instrument three times thicker than a hair. The laser is tuned to vaporize all the bacteria (they’re about 300 different species or so, delightful!) The gum tissue is unharmed by the laser.
Wow! Just five years have gone by. That’s phenomenal progress.
I got online and watched a You Tube video of the procedure called LANAP, Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure. Amazing. I was pumped.
The procedure lived up to its billing. Other than the shot (still an ouch!), there was zero pain. It was faster and less expensive. I played tennis the next day and attended my 60th birthday party the next night. It worked like a charm and spurs better bone and tissue regeneration.
Since 80 percent of Americans will require gum surgery at some point, this is great news. Lots of pain will be avoided.
Even if the procedure had failed, my options were still excellent, but more expensive. I could get an implant on top of which Dr. Lester could place a whole new artificial tooth that would be better than the real thing.
As exciting as my dental issues are, this column is to remind readers that we are living in the midst of extraordinary human progress – the greatest progress in the history of humanity. And we’re just getting started.
Fifty years ago, more than half the people over 65 had lost all their teeth. Today, only 15 percent. That’s a huge improvement. No doubt with this new laser procedure tooth loss is going to drop dramatically in the coming decade.
Last month I wrote that global poverty (living on less than $2 a day) had dropped from 40 percent of the world population to 10 percent in just 40 years. We should think about this every day we wake up and go to work. These are very good times. But people don’t comprehend this.
Tripp Segars read the column and texted me. “Read your most recent column. If you haven’t read Factfulness, you will find it interesting.”
So I bought the book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.
Turns out there is a huge disconnect between world progress and our perception of world progress. Most people think the world is in far worse shape than it is. Many think world progress is going backward, which could not be more wrong.
Bill Gates said Factfulness was “One of the most important books I’ve ever read―an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world.”
The book starts with a quiz of 13 questions about the state of the world: What percentage of people have access to electricity? What percent of women in the world have 10 years of education compared to men? What is the average life expectancy in the world? Are endangered species increasing or decreasing? And so on. There are three answers to choose from.
Turns out the average score was 33 percent, which means a chimpanzee scores as well on the quiz as the average person. When it comes to understanding the state of the world, our knowledge is no better than a chimpanzee.
Did you know 80 percent of children have been vaccinated against disease? Did you know the average life expectancy in the world is 70? Did you know that worldwide women only have one fewer year (nine) of education than men? Did you know the panda, rhino and tiger are less endangered today than 30 years ago? Did you know 80 percent of the world’s population has access to electricity? Did you know deaths from natural disasters have been cut in half from 100 years ago? Did you know the majority of the world population now lives in middle income countries? Did you know that in 100 years, there will be the same number of young people in the world as there are today? Did you know that 85 percent of the world’s population lives in developed countries with small families and low childhood death rates? Did you know only nine percent of the world’s population live in low income countries? And even in the low income countries, the life expectancy is 62 years, most people have access to improved water, and most children are vaccinated.
Every year in Davos, Switzerland, the richest, most powerful, smartest people in the world gather for a huge symposium on the state of the world. The average score on the test was 50 percent among Davos attendees.
This disconnect is caused by the nature of news. Plane wrecks are news. Safe landings are not. In today’s world of instant communication, we are subjected to an unending stream of huge disasters, terrorist attacks and other horror stories.
Then there is the negativity instinct. Perhaps after thousands of years of harsh life, human beings simply have a negativity instinct ingrained in our collective conscience, We expect the worst.
Well I’ve got news for you. The world is improving more rapidly than ever. In fact, the progress of the last 50 years is almost fantastical. And we are just getting started. That is factfulness.