Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

The Tooth, the Whole Tooth, and Nothing but the Tooth

Posted on: December 3, 2012


One thing about eating healthier:  You really do need good teeth. Teeth help you tear your food into digestable bits.

Unfortunately, my teeth are not so great.  I have hereditary gum issues, that are compounded by bad habits and infrequent dental care (lack of dental insurance for two years is not a great idea at any age — when you get older and start having problems, it’s a Really Bad Idea).

I also have a few problems that make being examined difficult.  I primarily intake air through my mouth (yeah, I know all the jokes about being a mouth-breather), and I have a hair-trigger gag reflex.  Even the best dentists and technician sometimes have trouble getting me x-rayed.    When I was working as a school aide, this became critical (although i didn’t realize it at the time).  The DC37 Dental Clinic decided to stop treating me because they could not easily x-ray me — only one tech had the skill, and he had to give me novocaine to get it done.  Unfortunately for me, they neglected to tell me that they were leaving a fragment of a broken wisdom tooth (hidden inside the gum) in my mouth.

As part of my Medicaid coverage, I got to choose a dentist, and — after getting a medical clearance from my primary care physician — I set up an appointment to get x-rays.  My new dentist’ technician is a whiz — she got all but one of the x-ray in one shot (one had to be taken over), without me choking.  Unfortunately, the x-rays revealed an infection around the fragment of tooth that the DC37 Dental Clinic left there.

So, today the roommate and I headed to the dental surgeon (the referral noted that if anesthesia would be needed, another adult was to accompany me).  The surgeon is local enough that, when my walking gets stronger, I can walk there and back.  And it’s not a mill, like the surgeon the DC37 Dental Clinic refers people to.  I arrived at 9:00 am, and other than a small paperwork glitch (resolved by a phone call to my primary care physician) everything went so smoothly that I was home by about 12:30 pm, and having some hot cereal (was not allowed to eat before the surgery).

However, the reason I’m writing about my teeth in my food/diet/health blog is that I really want to let people know that they should not make the mistakes I have done.  Regular home dental care is not something to give short shrift to.  Building back the gums after damage has occurred can be expensive and annoying.  Losing teeth can be painful, as can root canals.  Many basic dental plans will cover extraction, but not saving a tooth.   My dental insurance will pay for me to have a tooth pulled, but not to have the root canal/post/crown procedure.  That procedure, which I need on a different tooth,and which cannot be performed for a month after today’s extraction, is going to const me $525; a reasonable price for such a thing, but rough to raise when living on a pension.

So, today’s questions:  Are you taking proper care of your teeth?  What work is needed to bring your teeth to the best condition they can be in at this stage of your life?  Do you see your dentist regularly?  If you are a difficult patient, does your dentist have the proper equipment and training to deal with whatever your issue is?

Believe me, 60 years of age is way too late to have to start learning good dental habit, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the possibility of losing the rest of my teeth!

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2 Responses to "The Tooth, the Whole Tooth, and Nothing but the Tooth"

When I was young, I managed to get into the NYU dental school clinic as a test patient for dental care. From age 25, I’ve taken meticulous care of my teeth and have had the fortune to have steady dental coverage since then. In addition to after-meal flossing, I brush teeth, gums & tongue before bed with an eye-dropperful of full-strength OTC hydrogen peroxide, rinse & brush again with a Prevident-3000, a prescription tooth gel. It costs about the same as using regular toothpaste because the portion is much smaller. Also, I have eliminated gum bleeding by taking CoEnzyme Q10. I am a great patient, as I can sit through oral surgery with local anaesthetic alone. We have the unfortunate fate of being the last cohort that didn’t get fluoride in our water before our adult teeth formed. My husband, who is a mere 5 years younger, has great teeth, even though he doesn’t floss or between meals. So unfair!

I had no idea CoQ10 worked on bleeding gums! Will pick some up next time I’m near a vitamin counter. I can also take most oral surgery with only a local, but this one they had to cut into bone under gum to get the fragment out. Fortunately, the pain has been so minimal that I have not needed the Ultram they prescribed. But yeah, I remember when they decided to fluoridate the water. IIRC, I was almost a teenager when it happened, and I remember how folks didn’t want it to happen, because they were afraid of what else the government might put in the water. But, yeah, my late fiance had fabulous teeth (and a great, sexy smile). Never heard of Prevident-3000, but will ask my primary dentist about it when I see him next.

I generally am a good patient, and I have even had root canal with no pain killer whatsoever, but dental x-rays have always been an issue. Physically, the interior of my mouth is small enough that if they use those rectangular adult plates, I end up choking. Fortunately, the new dentist uses a smaller, square, electronic thingy, so there are no plates to try to keep from digging into my palate.

Anyway, I will try the CoQ10 because gum issues are part of my genetic heritage.

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