If I must choose a person who had a profound influence in my life, she was my first dentist. I don’t remember her name. In the 1940s there were only a few doctors in my home province of Jiangxi, China, so she was probably the only dentist there. She was trained in England.
When I was young, my teeth would came loose or break, and my parents took me to the hospital where she worked. One day when she was working on my teeth, there was an air raid and everyone ran into the shelter. She said since we were in the middle of something which could not be stopped, we should continue. She told me I had insufficient tooth building materials such as enamel required to have normal teeth. In order to have healthy teeth I should eat all kinds of food, anything and everything. Even though I was a very young child, I remembered her words well. I was determined to eat everything available to make healthy teeth. I am very happy to say that as a result of following this dentist’s words, I never had a cavity in my life.
My bad teeth probably were the result of my mother’s poor diet during her pregnancy—she ate raisins for several months.
Air raids were frequent during the Sino-Japanese war. At the beginning, the houses were brick and took a while to burn down. The Japanese airplanes circled around to make sure they hit their targets. After a few bombings destroyed homes and stores, there was no time to produce enough building materials. People rebuilt with bamboo walls plastered with mud and put on straw roofs. That kind of building burns instantly. The Japanese plane saw the fire and flew away, ending the air raid in no time at all. If one didn’t hurry to the shelter, he might as well not try to get there. That must have been the air raid my dentist and I skipped going to the shelter.