Monday, April 30, 2007

Dental Delight

Oh, yes, I went to the dentist today. My mouth now tastes of baking soda and fake cherry flavoring.

There’s nothing like having my frickin’ teeth scraped with sharp, metal picks, then having those picks poked down into my oh-so-fragile and tender gums. Did they have to be so rough about it? Were they looking for pearls in there? Most of my “gum scores” were 3 or 4, but there was an occasional 2 or 5 in there, too. Apparently a “2” means “Pretty decent, with little plaque”. A “4” means “You need a lecture about flossing again”, and a “5” means “What the heck do you put in there, raw sugar? Now let’s poke at it some more to make sure it bleeds.”

If you’ve read many of my blog posts, you know I’m a gluttonous freak when it comes to my eating habits, with all the sugar possible. And since I have two small children, my immediate impulse late at night is no longer to brush and floss appropriately, but rather to seek any flat, soft surface upon which to fall unconscious at the soonest possible opportunity. Mornings are likewise even more hectic than ever. So personal tooth hygiene isn’t as high a priority as it should be for me these days.

Anyhow, the last couple years have been pretty stressful, due to the ever-changing nature of my job and the stress of raising young-uns. The result: I clench and grind my teeth at night for the first time since I was a teenager. Now my dentist tells me I’ve cracked or lost four fillings. They have to be replaced. Oh boy. I’m not alone. Apparently 70% of dental procedures are replacements to existing repairs. AND I have to get a mouth guard to wear at night.

Can you sense my mounting excitement? Do you feel my sheer electric joy reaching through the computer screen to you? This means I have the pleasure of multiple return trips to my dental office, during my very busy work hours, to enjoy the aroma of burning tooth enamel as they grind and drill their way into my precious ivories and put silver fillings in.

Why silver and not the natural-looking resin type of filling, the sort that is UV-light hardened? Because the resin isn’t strong enough to take my brutish clenching and grinding.

A recent article reveals why, and what can be done about it:

Apparently the resin can contain special ions that help prevent decay and strengthen the structure of the tooth. One ion source is called dicalcium phosphate anhydrous, or DCPA. The problem is that DCPA particles are structurally weak, leading to breakdown of the filling itself. Now researchers at the American Dental Association’s Paffenbarger Research Center have found a way to use much smaller DCPA particles (20 times smaller using nanoparticle technology), which increases the efficiency of ion release to the teeth. This means much less DCPA needs to be used, which therefore means the resin filling is stronger.

But the new technology won’t come in time for me. My mouth will now contain silver (in addition to lead).

And what about that baking soda / cherry flavoring? As soon as I left my dentist I went by a fast food joint, washed my mouth out with sugary, acidic soda, and munched on a meaty sandwich filled with sweetened barbeque sauce and enclosed in a processed, sugary bun. Mmm, mmm!

A somewhat related addendum: HERE is today's CNN article about a recent study that shows, generally, Americans of all ages from children to seniors have better teeth. However, one alarm is that tooth decay has actually increased among infants, suggesting people may be feeding too much of my sort of food to their young children and not making sure the kids brush well. Though I trash my own body, at least I’m happy I feed good food to my own infants, brush their teeth every night, and give them fluoride. Do as I say, not as I do, kids!

Another Frickin’ Addendum: HERE is a cool world map related to dental care, by nation.


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