Friday, June 30, 2006

Dr. Teeth

No, this isn't a post about the front-man for the Muppet rockers 'The Electric Mayhem.' It's about what I learned about dentistry and my mouth in the last week or so.

First of all, to all you smokers and coffee drinkers with yellow teeth, if someone gives you shit, just tell them your enamel is slowly decaying as a result of too much mouth-breathing, because this actually CAN happen (it takes a while, the existing bacteria in your mouth hardens faster if the area is dry, and can also trigger gingivitis, so rinse while working out or being a neanderthal), and because the dentin underneath the enamel actually is yellow.

Also, 90% of root canals prescribed aren't necessary. If the root canal is being done to stem an infection, try antibiotics for a couple weeks first. It'll probably do the trick, and save you a lot of money and pain. Why would they prescribe the procedure then? Because it's expensive.

NEXT, if you're missing a tooth completely, get something put in there instead, because not only can the teeth on either side of it start "floating" (your teeth aren't as firmly rooted in your jaw as you think, and can change position rather quickly...remember brace-face in high school?), and the teeth above it can start to move as well, even fall OUT with nothing below to hold them in position.

I saw my own dentin recently, not from drilling or a cavity or any such thing. I had what's called an abfraction. This is where some external pressure (either from grinding or clenching your teeth, or brushing too hard) starts to form tiny fractures in the enamel, then coupled with demineralization can cause sections of the enamel to simply crumble apart. This is what happened to me. Still no cavities, I'm proud to say, but having a hole just OPEN UP in my tooth one day was a little disconcerting.

So after probably 3 years with no dentist, I went in for a checkup and everything's fine except for a little buildup in one place, which I would expect since I don't clean my teeth with an IRON HOOK. Just that one little hole, and its location (near the gumline, upper jaw, right bicuspid, on the front side) pointed most likely to a brushing problem. They told me to make sure I use soft bristles and not brush really hard (I didn't think I was before, but who knows). They filled in and polished off the hole today, no novocaine or anything. Just a quick rub with the drill across the area to make it rough and bondable, then put some stuff in thurr, polish it, and I was out. Done in like 10 minutes, start to finish.

I learned a bit about jaw alignment and muscle development, too, but I won't bore you with the details. HOWEVER, if you have an unusual SWALLOW (of all things), it can cause you problems, including things like abfractions. Typically, the tip of the tongue touches the top of the mouth just behind the teeth and sort of rolls backward as you swallow. If you do it any differently, it could put undue (albeit little, but it adds up) pressure on your teeth or jaw. So it's in everyone's best interests that we make sure we swallow properly. Ladies, this includes you. Learn to swallow. ;)

All's well that ends well, I suppose. It set me back about $340 between the exam, x-rays, cleaning, and the filling, but it would have likely cost me a lot more than that if I'd have been going every six months for the last three years like I was supposed to be. I'll call it even and cash out with a clean bill of oral health while I'm ahead.

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