I know; what a ridiculous title? But you have to admit, you’re probably totally intrigued about what the Tommy Cruise I’m thinking about or maybe you’re already moving on to unravel that tangled puzzle we know as the City Manager’s Weekly Report.
So I’m not talkin’ about Old-Time Rock n Roll or even the yucky HAZMAT breed of biomechanics that grosses out most of us non-medical specialists. But I just did have an SAT flashback even though back in The Day I didn’t even know I was taking The SAT when I was taking it.
Anyway, I’m just talking about teeth.
So most of us know teeth can be risky business; some of us know the hard way. Here’s the thing; please don’t feel so guilty about having a track record of tooth decay and fillings that seem to expand in size every time the Trojans mop up on the Bruins.
Okay, you win. You can feel guilty if you’re not trying and you know better. And sometimes guilt is good for you; just ask my Sicilian traveling production manager, Aunt Clara.
But getting cavities and suffering from tooth decay is mostly the outcome of our lack of resistance to disease. And yeah, it’s okay to think of tooth decay as a disease. Not being able to stop shoving Jolly Ranchers into your pie hole is not a disease; armies of aggressive bacteria using sugar as a medium to produce acid that will rot away weakly resistant enamel is a disease. Tooth decay, when it comes right down to it, is a bacterial infection. And some folks are more vulnerable to the infection than others.
Doesn’t it make sense to figure out who’s at risk sooner rather than later? Once dentists can assign a degree of risk to a particular oral health challenge, we’re better able to personalize care and make the care more preventive than interventive. Shucks, my world-famous continuing education guru, Seattle’s Doc Kois actually says stuff like, “No dentistry is as good as no dentistry” (And to think I pay Dr K 5Gs a pop to figure out how to best restore broken down teeth and mouths.)
The message is materials and approaches for restoring damaged teeth have made the restorative experience far less invasive than in the past. And the earlier significant tooth decay risks are identified, the more effectively we can follow the natural design of our enamel-coated chewing body parts. Kind of like the dentistry version of “keepin’ it real.”
Today, systems exist that can measure risk before tooth decay disease has even started. One particular technology, the Carifree system, takes only a few minutes in the office to quantify risk. Clinically, the experience is pain free and involves swabbing plaque off two different tooth surfaces. Carifree can even be used to measure risk in infants. The cost of the screening is less than the cost of one filling.
We can also detect risk for tooth decay just by studying patterns. If someone has active tooth decay or has had a history of tooth decay on the smooth enamel surfaces between teeth, we know there’s an increased risk. And we’re all at greater risk as we age and produce less saliva. Reduced saliva flow is also a common side effect of numerous medications.
Folks with a higher risk for tooth decay can receive fluoride in any number of ways and increase their cavities resistance. And we know the sugar substitute Xylitol potentiates the anti-bacterial capability of fluoride. Antimicrobial rinses help. Oral hygiene instruction and heightened monitoring are musts. Plus today, laser technology helps us detect tooth decay at very early stages.
So don’t feel guilty…unless you don’t stop by for a quick risk analysis from your dentist.