What’s your game plan? What are your goals for dental health? Here in Seattle our local team, the Seattle Seahawks, are back again to try for another Super Bowl win. You can be sure they have a PLAN! They are working their plan as a team and have it all mapped out: who does what, and how they are going to achieve their goals. Every Friday is Seahawks Blue Friday at my office- and everyone’s rooting for them to take it to the top! We all love to watch them succeed. And they succeed because they have a plan. So, again- what’s your plan?
This tooth didn’t hurt
But why? Nothing hurts, so why bother? Today’s post will address that very issue, and then hopefully inspire you to think outside the box and set a plan in motion to keep you and your family healthy for life!
I often hear- “nothing hurts – I’ll just wait until it does.” I get that – who wants to spend money on something that may never bother you or be a problem. While I understand, I can’t agree with that thinking. Why do I recommend taking care of teeth that don’t hurt? If I had a working crystal ball, I’d be happy to look deep in there and tell you exactly which teeth or areas to focus on and which ones will never be a problem. Unfortunately, my skills in prophesying are quite limited. The very best I can do is use my magnification and my light. Maybe someday they’ll develop magic crystal ball glasses I can wear during exams.
Often, tooth decay does not hurt until the nerve is infected. You may never know you have that cavity. Bleeding gums may not hurt either. Nor does infection in the jawbone. They don’t hurt until the infection gets to the nerve… until the final stages… and, for the record, if it hurts, it cannot magically repair itself, and will not go away. It will just get worse.
Do you want your dental professional to wait until problems erupt and then cost you triple (or more) what fixing it in the first place would cost? Nope, I didn’t think so either!
Instead, your dental team must use experience, knowledge, radiographs (x-rays), photographs and other tools to give you the very best recommendations as to what may or may not break, what will decay and what won’t, and what will or won’t work. I’d be very disappointed in my health professional if they did not use their expertise to point me in the correct direction. That’s why I go to see them.
Here are some of the things we look at:
Can you see the hairline crack?
Cracks in the teeth tell us lots about the health of that tooth. When your dentist or dental hygienist tells you they see cracks in your teeth, that is rather like cracks in the foundation of a bridge- it spells doom down the road. Cracks can spread and open up just like a Ziplock baggie. They may not hurt, but they most certainly can cause teeth to break. If we tell you about the cracks we see, pay attention.
Find the cracked teeth, the broken tooth and the failing fillings 🙂
Fillings wear out, especially silver fillings. The metal expands and contracts over many years, and weakens the remaining tooth. I often see intact silver fillings with a broken tooth corner. The tooth simply gave out. Then, I see folks leave that hole there, again, because it doesn’t hurt. Instead, I would strongly recommend you listen to your dentist’s recommendations to replace fillings or repair teeth before they cause you pain or sensitivity- that’s the best time, because your dentist can drill as little as possible and leave the tooth as healthy as possible.
Worn Down Teeth
Again, they don’t hurt. Do you see the brown edge on the tops of the teeth? That’s actually the beginning of the inner tooth surface called the dentin. Dentin is softer than enamel and will wear that much more quirkly. These teeth may not need fillings yet but they need attention. We need to ask: Why is this wear happening? How can we make the teeth stronger, more resistant to further break down? How can we prevent further wear and tear? Could it be a sign of sleep apnea? What else could this signal? Something is out of whack and more detective work is needed to prevent further breakdown.
Gum disease and tooth decay
No bone around this tooth root!
To the left is what we see above the gumline, and the radiograph (x-ray) on the right is what could be happening below, out of sight. Ouch! Neither will necessarily hurt until the final stages when much more destruction occurs. Gum disease- often called gingivitis or periodontitis causes an infection in the gums and it proceeds down into the jawbone. The bone is literally dissolving due to the bacteria, fungus and viruses living under the gumline. Check out my blogpost- It’s a Small, Small, Extra Small World
. See what’s really living there, and then get rid of it! Gum disease doesn’t hurt either- at least in the beginning. Don’t wait until it does! What you don’t see can
The Game Plan
Your mouth, your teeth and your body- you use them everyday, all day. Don’t you want this in the best shape possible?
How about comparing the money you’d spend on purchasing and maintaining a car – something you use a few hours a day- to the money you’d spend on keeping your mouth – a body part that you use all day, every day- in good repair. When you have a leaking tire, hopefully you patch it up or get a new tire, rather than leave it until the problem becomes a crisis while you’re stuck in traffic on the freeway.
#1. Definitely take care of the emergencies first- get out of pain and discomfort. Teeth and gums should NOT be sensitive.
Ask your dentist for a plan. Your dentist is the “Head Coach”- in charge of overseeing all your care, He or she presents what is called a “Treatment Plan,” and it will prioritize which teeth and gum areas are most likely to be a problem first. Then work through that plan. We start in one area and restore section by section until it’s done. That’s better than tooth by tooth!
(Your dental insurance may not cover much of this plan. My recommendation? Don’t wait for them- the sooner you repair, the smaller the fillings, the less work to do (especially long-term), and the less it’ll cost you in both time and money. Dental insurance is both a blessing and a curse. People use it as a crutch and an excuse. Take responsibility for your oral health and fix what needs fixing.)
#3. Add prevention to your plan. Your dental hygienist specializes in prevention, he or she could well be considered your “Oral Health Coach”.
What got you in trouble in the first place? Your previous prevention plan wasn’t the right one for you. Just as the Seahawks (or your preferred pro sports team) have coaches that guide them, so do you. Take advantage of their expertise. Ask questions! They see the big picture and are ready to help you to victory! Time to relook at the “WHY”- why is there decay? why do your gums bleed? why are teeth breaking? And then “HOW” can we prevent it from happening again? Tooth decay and gum disease can be reversed and prevented- I’ve written extensively
on tools and techniques to help you – and if you have further questions, email me. I’m happy to work with you. Find the tools that work in your hands.
Again, insurance won’t pay for any extra oral hygiene instructions or tools for prevention, but from a professional point of view, I truly think that is the best place to put your money to invest in your oral health. Besides, infections in your mouth don’t stay in your mouth, they infect other parts of your body
Yes, Dentistry can be expensive, or rather, the lack of dentistry can be expensive- but just like your car, you expect to spend money changing the oil and replacing the belts so that you can keep it on the road- you have a maintenance plan for your car. You get that postcard from your auto mechanic that tells you time for your 60,000 mile checkup. In my office I call it the 60,000 smile checkup! My hope is, you and your team, together can prevent that toothache, broken tooth, tooth loss, as well as that emergency in the middle of the night. I want you to be healthy. I want the best for you. The healthiest mouth, the best working teeth and a long healthy life.
No Surprises! Get your Game on. Have a plan!!
The best dentistry is preventive dentistry. Don’t wait- do it now. Make that game plan so you never fumble your way to a toothache. Instead, score that touchdown and win!