On Dental Relief

July 22nd, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized

I broke my front tooth once, when I was about 8 years old. With a hammer. I’d been doing some project (building a treehouse, I think) when I tripped, dropped the hammer, and saw it bounce up off the ground, directly into my face. Chipped off a third of my top right central incisor–a brand-new permanent tooth. It was repaired several times into my teens, with increasingly high-tech materials but mixed success, and I finally went and had it porcelain-veneered a few years ago. I’m told that this fix is good for two decades, and that suggests one more repair in my fifties, plus one more in my seventies. If I’m still around twenty years after that, I’ll just stick with soft food, thanks.

Otherwise I’ve been dentally fortunate. Couple of fillings and little more. My wife, on the other hand, is spending a lot of this summer in the big vinyl chair, with multiple root-canal operations taking place. It’s gruesome, gory, painful, and expensive. (I really can’t understand the thinking of a dental insurer that does not cover a root canal–what counts, if not this?–but we’ll leave that for another discussion.) It’s awful, and I hope that our son inherits my enamel and not hers. (He’s got her face, though, so who knows whether teeth are part of that.)

I bring this up because, not long ago, I mentioned our baby son to my own dentist, who’s a thoughtful guy, and he said something remarkable. He was applying a sealant to one of my molars, which means a little bit of liquid resin that fills up the crevices to keep bacteria from getting a toehold toward decay. And here’s what he told me: “You know, your son will have this done in a few years, and that’ll be that.” As in, he’s unlikely to have a cavity, maybe ever. Sealants, my doc explained, are about 95 percent effective in forestalling decay. That, plus fluoridated water and modern oral hygiene, is turning childhood cavities into a thing of the past. “It’s going to become an antique disease, something you read about in books,” he said, smiling. “Like diptheria.”

Doesn’t that make you happy? I swear I could eat a whole box of Oreos to celebrate.

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