Monday, February 13, 2017

Take Your Kids To The Dentist!

I'm sitting at home recovering from some oral surgery.  Last August I lost most of the teeth on my lower left due to a rampaging infection.  The surgery is the first of several to remedy that situation; in about a year or so I may have fully recovered what has been lost.

When I was a kid -- this was in the late 1950's/early 1960's -- my parents only took us kids to the dentist when we were in pain.  And I hate to say it, but our dentist wasn't a very good one.  He was not current with treatment.  His drill was powered by a foot treadle, not electricity.  He still used mercury to make amalgam fillings.  He would occasionally leave cotton packing under the fillings which would cause more trouble down the road when the cotton started to break down.  He was terrible.  A lot of his "work" had to be re-done, often more than once, once I was an adult.

Consequently I have a mouth full of fillings and root canals.  Cut ahead to the present day, when the best treatment for my Crohn's Disease involves severely suppressing my immune system.  Short version: I am very prone to infection.  Because my teeth are already "dead" thanks to root canals, I had no idea I even had the infection in my jaw until a lot of damage had been done.  (I feel so crappy most of the time anyway that it really did go unnoticed, and because the involved teeth had no nerves, I had no pain until the jawbone itself began to sustain damage.)  There was no other recourse; the teeth had to be extracted.

This was last August; it's now February and the bone has healed enough to begin preparation for dental implants.  This will take another few months to heal; then the implants can be screwed into my jaw; more months to heal; posts will be installed in the implants and the gum will be reshaped to accommodate crowns; finally, when that heals I'll get crowns and be able to chew again.  It is going to cost us thousands of dollars.  With luck it will all be over before something bad happens to me on the other side.  Which I have no doubt it will, eventually.

My lovely wife had marginally better dental care than I did growing up.  She at least had regular checkups, but grew up in a community without fluoridation of the water supply.  So she also has a fair number of fillings and crowns, although not nearly as many as I do.  So when we had our daughter, we both agreed that proper, regular dental care was a must.

My daughter started seeing our dentist every six months once she turned 4.  She has never missed a checkup.  She has complied with all of his recommendations regarding fluoride and treatments.  It was not always easy; we did not always have dental insurance and often had to make financial arrangements with the dentist in order to maintain her care.  But we managed.

She is 24 now, and has never had even a minor cavity.  Her only dental trauma was an impacted wisdom tooth.

She has a perfect smile.

I know that not everyone has the financial wherewithal for regular dentistry, but I can't stress firmly enough how important it is to make it happen.  It will save your kids thousands of bucks and countless hours of pain down the road.  There are programs and dental colleges and dentists who work pro bono if you can't afford it.  Look into it.  Find something.  Do the leg work.  Don't put it off.

Treat yourself to a perfect smile from the people you most love.  It's totally worth it.

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