“Extractions were by forceps or commonly keys, rather like a door key… When rotated it gripped the tooth tightly. This extracted the tooth – and usually gum and bone with it… Sometimes the jaws were also broken during an extraction by untrained people.”
(Jane Elliott, Health reporter, BBC News)
Last month I went to see the dentist for a regular six-month examination and cleaning. During the exam, they discovered a tiny cavity had developed beneath one of my fillings. “No worries,” said cheerful dentist Dr. Jake, “just make an appointment and we’ll get that fixed up in no time.”
Sitting in the chair during that follow-up appointment, mouth wide open, with needles, devices, hands and rinsing tools all stuffed into and then out of my mouth, I was grateful for modern dentistry for the first time in my life. You see, up until that moment, I had considered dentistry a kind of burden or obligation that I was somehow forced to submit to once or twice a year. Really! For most of my life, I tried to bargain with the six-month cleaning rule, figuring that if I could stretch it to nine months or a year I was getting more bang for my buck. I never considered the importance of healthy teeth and gums until that moment. It never occurred to me that my tiny cavity, left untreated (as they were before modern dentistry) could have become an infected abscess and left me facing the horror of an extraction, such at the one described in the quote above.
That inspired me to do a little research, and here’s what I have learned:
Evolve Dental writes that taking care of your teeth and gums will not only help you keep your teeth for life but also helps you live a healthier, longer, better quality of life. In their blog post, 10 Benefits of Clean Teeth and A Healthy Mouth, they report that caring for your teeth and having a healthy mouth reduces your risk of:
- Heart disease
- Lung infections
- Kidney problems
- Preterm birth
- Erectile dysfunction
And, they say, “it saves you money – prevention is better and more cost effective than cure. Regular dentist care isn’t expensive – neglecting your teeth is!”
21st Century Dental, a general dentistry practice from Irving, Texas, advises that daily flossing can add 6.4 years to your life. I remember reading that same information many years ago when I took a quiz to calculate my real age. In his book, RealAge, Dr. Michael F. Roizen describes a methodology to calculate how old a person actually is (compared to averages and actuarial tables) based to a great degree upon choices he/she makes about lifestyle, eating, exercise, etc. On flossing, the book states that: “Flossing your teeth daily can make your arteries younger. The probable reason: Flossing helps keep your immune system young… the same bacteria that cause periodontal disease also trigger an immune response, inflammation, that causes the arteries to swell. The swelling of the arterial walls results in a constriction of blood flow that can lead to a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease.” I was amazed at the impact flossing had on health and longevity, and made it a near daily practice immediately.
Ever since my moment of clarity about the fact that modern dentistry is a critical foundation of my health and wellness, I have wondered how much worse things would be for me without it. I can only imagine the pain and suffering I would have endured without the modern dentistry that filled all my cavities, or the root canal that fixed my badly decayed tooth, or the implant that replaced the tooth that literally fell out of my mouth when I was eating my lunch a few years back.
So count me all in! I’ll be making all my six-month exams and cleaning appointments on time. And as the American Dental Association recommends, I’ll be brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing once a day. And I’ll be doing all of this with immense gratitude for the fact that I live in the era of modern dentistry, and with a toothsome smile!
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