If I had a penny for every time people ask about tooth loss, I’d be a rich gal. It’s something that a lot of my patients really worry about, and while it’s good to be proactive, I have to take a moment to say that we live in a truly amazing era – tooth loss is not inevitable! A lot of us have grown up watching our parents or grandparents lose teeth the older they have gotten. It feels like one Christmas, Grandma has all of her pearly whites, and the next time you see her, she’s taking out a plastic set every night before bed. Watching this happen leaves quite a mark on your memory (it did for me), and one of the most common fears I hear from my patients is, “I don’t want to lose my teeth!”
I think that given the past of dentistry, we tend to think that losing teeth is just part of growing old. But science has long since come to the rescue and I can say with confidence that there’s very little reason for any of you to lose your teeth – well, unless you have a Wile E. Coyote moment and start to bring on some serious damage. Hazards aside, we live in a phenomenal generation and we know more now about tooth health and decay than ever before. But there’s a trick to it all: You have to make sure you are diligent about your appointments!
Now, you might be wondering, “How can she be so sure?” The answer to that is in how I practice dentistry. Once upon a time, people only came to the dentist when something was really, really wrong. Toothaches, broken teeth, gnarly gums – only then would most patients come in for evaluation and treatment. But as we started to uncover the truth behind the tooth, dentists around the world decided to be proactive instead of reactive. This led to the wonderful world of semiannual checkups and cleanings. Now ask yourself this: Where did the “every six months” rule come from?
This tradition of sorts actually came from insurance companies. When setting the standards, the “experts” of the insurance industry decided that twice a year would serve as more than enough covered visits for their clients, and to keep with the form, most dentists followed suit and began to see their patients only twice a year for maintenance, with a few extra visits every once in a while for emergent problems. But, not all mouths are created equally, and there are quite a few out there who aren’t served well with the “every six months” insurance standard.
This is why I make sure that everyone who walks through my doors is given a treatment plan that is as individualized as possible. Clean teeth correlate to healthy teeth, and if someone has a hard time with that, other tools and more frequent cleanings will definitely pay off in the long run! My mission here is to ensure that you keep the teeth that you have, for the rest of your life. I want my young patients to keep their gums healthy, bones strong, and every last chomper cavity-free. For my older patients, or those who’ve already lost some teeth, I want to keep the ones you do have shipshape, with stable underlying bone supporting them.
So, here’s the secret: 1) Get cavities taken care of as soon as we find them. Most grow rapidly, so, the longer you wait, the more tooth structure you lose – which is bad news for your tooth and your wallet. 2) Stay on top of your cleanings and appointments (whether that’s every three months, or every six months) – don’t forget, your cleanings are customized. Longer wait times mean more bacteria and more damage. 3) Be a pro at your personal home hygiene, and maintain the right tool kit. Most people should be using a Sonicare electric toothbrush (remember – the ones we sell at our office come with a free replacement head along with your cleaning appointments!). It’s the best investment you can make for maintaining your teeth. This, my friends, is the Dr. T approved recipe to keep your smile, and I’m not just saying that because of my own dental wizardry – the science backs it up! We’re living in a wonderful age, and even now, we’re still discovering new things about oral health. With all of the knowledge we have now, and look forward to, I know we can work together to keep you healthy and smiling for many years to come!